The Governor of California is the chief executive of the California state government, commander-in-chief of the California National Guard and the California State Military Reserve, whose responsibilities also include making annual State of the State addresses to the California State Legislature, submitting the budget, and ensuring that state laws are enforced. The position was created in 1849, the year before California became a state. The current governor is Jerry Brown, a Democrat who was inaugurated January 3, 2011, and who had previously served as governor from 1975 to 1983. In October 2013, Jerry Brown surpassed Earl Warren for the longest cumulative period of time served as governor.
Governors are elected by popular ballot and serve terms of four years, with a limit of two terms, if served after November 6, 1990. Governors take the following oath:
I (Governor) do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California against all enemies foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California, that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties upon which I am about to enter.
Governors take office on the first Monday after January 1 after their election.
There are two methods available to remove a governor before the expiration of the gubernatorial term of office.
Recall by the voters
Petitions signed by California state voters equal in number to 12% of the last vote for the office of governor (with signatures from each of 5 counties equal in number to 1% of the last vote for governor in the county) can launch a gubernatorial recall election. The voters can then vote on whether or not to recall the incumbent governor, and on the same ballot they can vote a potential replacement. If a majority of the voters in the election vote to recall the governor, then the person who gains a plurality of the votes in the replacement race will become governor.
The 2003 California recall began with a petition drive that successfully forced sitting Democratic Governor Gray Davis into a special recall election. It marked the first time in the history of California that a governor faced a recall election. He was subsequently voted out of office, becoming the second governor in the history of the United States to be recalled after Lynn Frazier of North Dakota in 1921. He was replaced by Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The Lieutenant Governor of California is separately elected during the same election, not jointly as the running mate of the gubernatorial candidate. California has had a governor and a lieutenant governor of different parties 26 of the past 31 years. This occasionally becomes significant, since the California Constitution provides that all the powers of the governor fall to the lieutenant governor whenever the governor is not in the state of California, with the lieutenant governor often signing or vetoing legislation, or making political appointments, whenever the governor leaves the state. The lieutenant governor is also the President of the California State Senate. In practice, there is a gentlemen's agreement for the Lieutenant Governor not to perform more than perfunctory duties while the Governor is away from the state. This agreement was violated when Mike Curb was in office, as he signed several executive orders at odds with the Brown administration when Brown was out of the state. Court rulings have upheld the lieutenant governor's right to perform the duties and assume all of the prerogatives of governor while the governor is out of the state.
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