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The Governor of Kentucky is the head of the executive branch of the U.S. state of Kentuckymarker, and serves as commander-in-chief of the state's army, navy, and militia forces. The office is presently held by Democrat Steve Beshear.


Candidates for the office of governor of Kentucky must be at least thirty years of age, and have resided in the Commonwealth for at least six years preceding the general election. Candidates are elected by popular vote and run on a ticket with a candidate for the office of lieutenant governor. Both officials serve a term of four years, beginning on the fifth Tuesday after the election. Disputes regarding gubernatorial elections are resolved by the General Assembly.

Until 1992, the Kentucky Constitution stipulated that no governor was allowed succeed himself or herself in office. A 1992 amendment to the Constitution permitted the incumbent to seek a second term, but made him or her ineligible for four years following the end of the second term. After this four year period one who has served two terms can run again. As with all other elected offices in the state, the Constitution prohibits anyone from serving as governor who has in any way been participant in a duel and the governor's oath of office to this day includes swearing that the governor-elect has not participated in a duel.


If the sitting governor dies, is removed by impeachment, resigns, or is for any other reason unable to execute the duties of the office, the chain of succession is:

  1. Lieutenant governor
  2. President of the Senate
  3. Attorney General
  4. State Auditor


The governor is subject to impeachment, removal from office, and disqualification to hold further public office in the state for commission of "any misdemeanors in office." The power of impeachment rests with the Kentucky House of Representatives, and the trial is conducted by the Kentucky Senate.

The governor's office.

Powers and responsibilities

Substantial power is granted to the governor of Kentucky. Historically, the office has been regarded as one of the most powerful executive positions in the United Statesmarker.

With regard to the legislature

The governor exercises traditional veto power, which can be overridden by a majority of both houses of the General Assembly. He or she is also granted the privilege of a line-item veto. Unlike the U.S. President, however, the governor does not have the option of a pocket veto. In the event that the legislature prevents the return of a bill by an adjournment, the bill will become law after ten days unless the governor explicitly vetoes it. (With the federal pocket veto, the bill is considered vetoed after ten days if the legislature dismisses.)

The governor may, in exceptional circumstances, call the General Assembly into special session. This is done by issuing a proclamation that includes the issue or issues to be addressed in the special session. Consideration of any other issues during the session is forbidden. Special sessions are to take place in the state capital except in cases of danger from enemies or disease; in such cases, the governor specifies the location of the session.

The governor is required to give a "State of the Commonwealth" address periodically to the General Assembly. Traditionally, this is an annual address. The governor is also charged with presenting a budget to the General Assembly every other year.

With regard to the judiciary

He or she is granted the traditional executive power of pardon except in cases of impeachment or treason.

With regard to appointments

The governor is given broad appointment power, and names many state commissioners and department heads without the need for legislative approval. The governor is also empowered to reorganize the state government or reduce it in size. This power was used most effectively by Governor A. B. "Happy" Chandler, whose Government Reorganization Act of 1936 so streamlined the state's bureaucracy that he was able to cut the state's outstanding debt by 75%, a whopping $28.5 million.

History of the office

Number of Governors of Kentucky by party affiliation
Party Governors
Democratic 29
Republican 8
Democratic-Republican 8
Whig 6
National Republican 2
National Union 2
Know-Nothing Party 1

During the Civil War, a group of Confederate sympathizers met at the Russellville Convention to form a Confederate government for the Commonwealth of Kentucky. While this government never successfully displaced the government in Frankfortmarker, two men were elected governor of the Confederate government: George W. Johnson and, on Johnson's death, Richard Hawes. The Confederate government disbanded shortly after the end of the Civil War in 1865.

Since the end of the Civil War, the office has typically been held by a member of the Democratic Party. Governor Ernie Fletcher was the eighth Republican governor in the state's history.

William Goebel, who was elected to the office in the disputed election of 1899, remains the only governor of any U.S. state to die from assassination while in office. He also was the only governor of Kentucky never to marry.

Martha Layne Collins, who held the office from 1983 to 1987, was the only woman to serve as governor of Kentucky and only the third woman to serve as governor of any U.S. state.

Oath of office

As given in the Kentucky Constitution of 1850, the governor's oath of office is as follows:


See also

External links

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