Thursday, October 20, 2011

How powerful are the governors of U.S. states?

The Massachusetts governor was rated the most powerful of the fifty by the University of North Carolina political science professor Thad L. Beyle. The position that Mitt Romney formerly held entails unlimited four year terms. After Romney chose not to run for a second term he was replaced by Deval Patrick. As a result, the Democrats controlled both the executive role and the statehouse for the first time in 16 years - giving them a considerable amount of power in Massachusetts.

As well as the factor of whether the governor's party controls the legislature, the extent of an individual governor's power also depends on that state's constitution. For instance, in some states governors have the power to hire and fire state employees. This ability can cause controversy. In Maryland a few years ago, the statehouse Democrats accused the Republican chief executive Robert Ehrlich of dismissing 340 state workers on the basis of partisanship.

New Jersey's governor was particularly powerful before 2009, as until then the post was the only elected top state official. This was changed in 2009 when Chris Christie was elected governor of New Jersey and ran with Kim Guadagno, who became the state's first lieutenant governor. The job was created following an amendment to the New Jersey State Constitution.

While some governors can even appoint employees in other sectors (such as education, health and transport), the Texas governor is unable to make such key designations and has limited power.

Nonetheless, all governors have bully pulpits - they are important figures and therefore can easily capture the media's attention. This is arguably a great power within itself.

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