The Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia serves as the chief executive of the Commonwealth of Virginia for a four-year term. The current holder of the office is Democrat Ralph Northam, who was sworn in on January 13, 2018.
|Governor of |
the Commonwealth of Virginia
since January 13, 2018
|Residence||Virginia Executive Mansion|
|Term length||Four years, not eligible for re-election immediately|
|Inaugural holder||Patrick Henry|
|Formation||July 5, 1776|
Candidates for governor must be United States citizens who have resided in Virginia and been a registered voter for five years prior to the election in which they are running. The candidates must be at least 30 years of age.
Unlike other state governors, Virginia governors are not allowed to serve consecutive terms. They have been barred from immediate re-election since the adoption of Virginia's second constitution, in 1830. However, a former governor is permitted to run for a second term in a future election. Only two governors since 1830, William Smith and Mills Godwin, were elected to additional terms. Smith's second term came after Virginia seceded from the Union, while Godwin became the first ever governor in American history to be elected by both major parties when the former Democrat was elected in 1973 as a Republican.
To get on the ballot for Governor of Virginia, each candidate must file 10,000 signatures, including the signatures of at least 400 qualified voters from each of the 11 congressional districts in the Commonwealth.
The governor is the head of government in Virginia. At the beginning of every regular session, they must report the state of the Commonwealth to the Virginia General Assembly (both the House of Delegates and the Senate). They must convene the legislature when two-thirds of each house calls for a special session. The governor must ensure that the laws of the Commonwealth are faithfully executed by either signing, or allowing it to come into law, or vetoing, not allowing it to become law. They are responsible for the safety of the state, as they serve as commander-in-chief of the Virginia Militia.
The position of Governor of Virginia dates back to the 1607 first permanent English settlement in America, at Jamestown on the north shore of the James River upstream from Hampton Roads harbor at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. The Virginia Company of London set up a government run by a council. The president of the council basically served as a governor. The council was based in London and controlled the colony from afar. Nominally, Thomas Smith was the first president of the council, but he never left England. Edward Maria Wingfield was the first president of the council in residence in the new province, making him the first to exercise the actual authority of governing Virginia. The Virginia Company soon abandoned governance by council two years after the landing on May 23, 1609, and replacing it with a governor, the famous and dynamic leader, John Smith (1580-1631).
In 1624, the English Monarchy of King James I (1566-1625, reigned 1603-1625), in the last year of his reign, of the royal House of Stuart took control from the Virginia Company and its stockholders and made Virginia a crown colony. Governors continued to be appointed by the monarch for many years. Most often, the appointed governor would reside in England while a deputy or lieutenant governor actually exercised authority. Royal rule was interrupted during the English Civil War (1642-46 / 1648-49), after which governors were appointed by the Protectorate under Richard Cromwell (successor to Oliver Cromwell) in the interim Commonwealth of England until the English Restoration of the monarchy with King Charles II in 1660.
Virginia became an independent sovereign state and Commonwealth during the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783), with Patrick Henry (1736-1799, served 1776-79 / 1786-89) as its first governor (and also later sixth). From the Revolution until 1851, the governor was elected by the General Assembly of Virginia (commonwealth/state legislature). After 1851, in a democratic trend spreading across the Union, the state turned to popular elections for office holders.
During the American Civil War (1861-1865), Francis Harrison Pierpont was the governor of the Union-controlled parts of the state, later of which emerged the new state in the northwest of West Virginia. Pierpont also served as one of the provisional governors during the post-war Reconstruction era. These governors were appointed by the Federal government of the President and U.S. Congress, both controlled by Radical Republicans for a decade. In 1874, Virginia regained its right to self-governance and elected James L. Kemper (1823-1895), a Democrat and temporary Conservative Party member and former Confederate general as governor. After the Radical Republican appointees of the post-war Reconstruction era, Virginia would not actually elect another regular Republican as governor until A. Linwood Holton Jr. in 1969. However, in 1881 William E. Cameron was elected governor under the banner of the Readjuster Party, a coalition of Republicans and populist Democrats. Douglas Wilder became the first elected and only the second African American Governor of any U.S. state. He served as governor from 1990 to 1994.
Since 1851, Virginia's gubernatorial elections have been held in "off-years"—years in which there are no national (presidential, senatorial, or House) elections; Virginia's gubernatorial elections are held one year after U.S. presidential elections (2001, 2005, 2009, etc.) (Most states hold gubernatorial elections either on presidential-election years or midterm-election years, when there are congressional elections.) In every Virginia gubernatorial election starting with 1977, the governor elected had been from the opposite party as the president elected by the nation in the previous year, even when Virginia had voted for the president in office, as with Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama. The only exception being in 2013 with the election of Democrat Terry McAuliffe, following the re-election of President Obama in 2012.
Tim Kaine was inaugurated on January 14, 2006. Due to renovations on the Capitol in Richmond, his inauguration was held in Williamsburg, making him the first governor to be inaugurated in Williamsburg since Thomas Jefferson in 1779. The current governor of Virginia is Ralph Northam, who was inaugurated on January 13, 2018.
In the 1973 Virginia gubernatorial election, incumbent Governor A. Linwood Holton, Jr., a Republican, was unable to seek re-election due to term limits. Mills E. Godwin, Jr., former Democratic Governor of Virginia, was nominated by the Republican Party to run against Independent Lieutenant Governor of Virginia Henry Howell. The Democrats did not field a candidate.1977 Virginia gubernatorial election
In the 1977 Virginia gubernatorial election, incumbent Governor Mills E. Godwin, Jr., a Republican, was unable to seek re-election due to term limits. John N. Dalton, the Lieutenant Governor of Virginia, was nominated by the Republican Party to run against the Democratic nominee, former Lieutenant Governor of Virginia Henry Howell.2017 Virginia elections
Statewide and municipal elections were held in the U.S. state of Virginia on November 7, 2017. The main election being held in Virginia was the state's gubernatorial election. In addition, all of Virginia's House of Delegates seats were up for re-election. Primary elections for the House of Delegates and the governor were held on June 13, 2017. Ralph Northam (D) was elected to become the 73rd Governor of Virginia, Justin Fairfax (D) was elected to become the 41st Lieutenant Governor of Virginia, and Mark Herring (D) was reelected as the 47th Attorney General of Virginia.Alexander Spotswood
Alexander Spotswood (c. 1676 – 6 June 1740) was a Lieutenant-Colonel in the British Army and a noted Lieutenant Governor of Virginia. He is noted in Virginia and American history for a number of his projects as governor, including his exploring beyond the Blue Ridge Mountains, his establishing what was perhaps the first colonial iron works, and his negotiating the Treaty of Albany with the Iroquois Nations of New York.Colgate Darden
Colgate Whitehead Darden Jr. (February 11, 1897 – June 9, 1981) was a Democratic U.S. Representative from Virginia (1933–37, 1939–41), the 54th Governor of Virginia (1942–46), Chancellor of the College of William and Mary (1946–47) and the third President of the University of Virginia (1947–59). The Darden Graduate School of Business Administration of the University of Virginia was named for him.Douglas Wilder
Lawrence Douglas Wilder (born January 17, 1931) is an American lawyer and politician who served as the 66th Governor of Virginia, from 1990 to 1994. He was the first African American to serve as governor of a U.S. state since Reconstruction, and the first elected African-American governor.Born in Richmond, Virginia, Wilder graduated from Virginia Union University and served in the United States Army during the Korean War. He established a legal practice in Richmond after graduating from the Howard University School of Law. A member of the Democratic Party, Wilder won election to the Virginia Senate in 1969. He remained in that chamber until 1986, when he took office as the Lieutenant Governor of Virginia, becoming the first African American to hold statewide office in Virginia. In the 1989 Virginia gubernatorial election, Wilder narrowly defeated Republican Marshall Coleman.
Wilder left the gubernatorial office in 1994, as the Virginia constitution prohibited governors from seeking re-election. He briefly sought the 1992 Democratic presidential nomination, but withdrew from the race before the first primaries. He also briefly ran as an independent in the 1994 Virginia Senate election before dropping out of the race. Wilder returned to elective office in 2005, when he became the first directly-elected Mayor of Richmond. After leaving office in 2009, he worked as an adjunct professor and founded the United States National Slavery Museum.Elbert Lee Trinkle
Elbert Lee Trinkle (March 12, 1876 – November 25, 1939) was an American politician who served as the 49th Governor of Virginia from 1922 to 1926.Gerald Baliles
Gerald Lee Baliles (born July 8, 1940) is a former American politician who was the 65th Governor of Virginia from 1986 to 1990 and the former director of the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia.Gilbert Carlton Walker
Gilbert Carlton Walker (August 1, 1833 – May 11, 1885) was a United States political figure. He served as the 36th Governor of Virginia, first as a Republican provisional governor between 1869 and 1870, and again as a Democratic elected governor from 1870 to 1874. He was the last Republican governor of Virginia until Linwood Holton took office in 1970.James Hubert Price
James Hubert Price (September 7, 1878 – November 22, 1943) was an American politician who was elected 53rd Governor of Virginia in 1937, during the Great Depression and became known as the Commonwealth's "New Deal Governor." Over the opposition of the Byrd Organization, Price, a Virginia attorney and businessman, passed many social programs and implemented other federal programs to benefit Virginians. Price had previously represented Richmond as one of its delegates in the Virginia House of Delegates for over a decade (1916–1930), as well as served as Lieutenant Governor for two terms beginning in 1930.James Monroe
James Monroe (; April 28, 1758 – July 4, 1831) was an American statesman, lawyer, diplomat, and Founding Father who served as the fifth president of the United States from 1817 to 1825. A member of the Democratic-Republican Party, Monroe was the last president of the Virginia dynasty, and his presidency coincided with the Era of Good Feelings. He is perhaps best known for issuing the Monroe Doctrine, a policy of opposing European colonialism in the Americas. He also served as the governor of Virginia, a member of the United States Senate, the U.S. ambassador to France and Britain, the seventh Secretary of State, and the eighth Secretary of War.
Born into a planter family in Westmoreland County, Virginia, Monroe served in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. After studying law under Thomas Jefferson from 1780 to 1783, he served as a delegate in the Continental Congress. As a delegate to the Virginia Ratifying Convention, Monroe opposed the ratification of the United States Constitution. In 1790, he won election to the Senate, where he became a leader of the Democratic-Republican Party. He left the Senate in 1794 to serve as President George Washington's ambassador to France, but was recalled by Washington in 1796. Monroe won election as Governor of Virginia in 1799 and strongly supported Jefferson's candidacy in the 1800 presidential election.
As President Jefferson's special envoy, Monroe helped negotiate the Louisiana Purchase, through which the United States nearly doubled in size. Monroe fell out with his long-time friend, James Madison, after the latter rejected the Monroe–Pinkney Treaty that Monroe negotiated with Britain. He unsuccessfully challenged Madison in the 1808 presidential election, but in April 1811 he joined Madison's administration as Secretary of State. During the later stages of the War of 1812, Monroe simultaneously served as Madison's Secretary of State and Secretary of War. His war-time leadership established him as Madison's heir apparent, and he easily defeated Federalist Party candidate Rufus King in the 1816 presidential election.
Monroe's presidency was coterminous with the Era of Good Feelings, as the Federalist Party collapsed as a national political force. As president, Monroe signed the Missouri Compromise, which admitted Missouri as a slave state and banned slavery from territories north of the parallel 36°30′ north. In foreign affairs, Monroe and Secretary of State John Quincy Adams favored a policy of conciliation with Britain and a policy of expansionism against the Spanish Empire. In the 1819 Adams–Onís Treaty with Spain, the United States secured Florida and established its western border with New Spain. In 1823, Monroe announced the United States' opposition to any European intervention in the recently independent countries of the Americas with the Monroe Doctrine, which became a landmark in American foreign policy. Monroe was a member of the American Colonization Society, which supported the colonization of Africa by freed slaves, and Liberia's capital of Monrovia is named in his honor. Following his retirement in 1825, Monroe was plagued by financial difficulties. He died in New York City on July 4, 1831. He has been generally ranked as an above-average president.Jim Gilmore
James Stuart Gilmore III (born October 6, 1949) is an American politician and former attorney who was the 68th Governor of Virginia from 1998 to 2002 and Chairman of the Republican National Committee in 2001.
A native Virginian, Gilmore graduated as a Bachelor of Arts and a Juris Doctor from the University of Virginia, and then served in the U.S. Army as a counterintelligence agent. He was later elected to public office as a county prosecutor, as the Attorney General of Virginia, and as Governor of Virginia.
Gilmore was a candidate for the Republican nomination for President of the United States in the 2008 and 2016 elections.In November 2018, Gilmore was nominated by President Donald Trump to serve as the U.S. Representative to United States Mission to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, a position which carries the rank of ambassador. His nomination is pending U.S. Senate confirmation.Jim Gilmore 2016 presidential campaign
The 2016 presidential campaign of Jim Gilmore, the 68th Governor of Virginia, was officially launched on July 30, 2015, when Gilmore filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and announced his candidacy through a variety of news outlets. Gilmore suspended his campaign on February 12, 2016, after failing to qualify for inclusion in the Republican primary debates.John N. Dalton
John Nichols Dalton (July 11, 1931 – July 30, 1986) was an American politician who served as the 63rd governor of Virginia, from 1978 to 1982. Dalton won the office with 55.9% of the vote, defeating Democrat Henry E. Howell, Jr and Independent Alan R. Ogden. Dalton had previously served as Lieutenant Governor of Virginia.Lieutenant Governor of Virginia
The Lieutenant Governor is a constitutional officer of the Commonwealth of Virginia. The Lieutenant Governor is elected every four years along with the Governor and Attorney General. The office is currently held by Democrat Justin Fairfax. The governor and lieutenant governor are elected separately and thus may be of different political parties. The lieutenant governor's office is located in the Oliver Hill Building on Capitol Square in Richmond, Virginia. The lieutenant governor serves as the President of the Senate of Virginia and is first in the line of succession to the governor; in the event the governor dies, resigns, or otherwise leaves office, the lieutenant governor becomes governor. Unlike the governor, the Lieutenant Governor of Virginia can serve consecutive terms.
Since the late 1920s, the lieutenant governor has been one of only three positions that competes in a statewide election in Virginia (along with the governor and attorney general). Since the governor cannot serve consecutive terms, whoever is elected lieutenant governor is almost always considered a leading candidate for governor. This is especially the case if the lieutenant governor and the attorney general come from different parties. For example, after Democrat Tim Kaine was elected lieutenant governor and Republican Jerry Kilgore was elected attorney general in 2001, it was virtually taken for granted that they would face each other in the 2005 election.
The office of Lieutenant Governor is of colonial origin and can be traced to the Virginia Council of London. The Council was appointed by the King, and in turn, the Council appointed the Lieutenant Governor or deputy. When the English crown forbade colonial governors' absence from the colonies without leave in 1680, it became the Council’s duty to designate or send a deputy who could exercise all the powers of the Governor under the written instructions of both the crown and the Governor. Virginia’s first Constitution, adopted in 1776, provided a Council of State from which a President was annually selected from its members. The President acted as Lieutenant Governor in the case of the death, inability, or necessary absence of the Governor from the government. The Virginia Constitution of 1851 abolished the Governor’s Council of State and provided for the popular election of the Lieutenant Governor. Shelton Farrar Leake, from Albemarle County, was the first elected Lieutenant Governor, serving from 1852 to 1856.
Constitutionally, the Lieutenant Governor is president of the Senate of Virginia, as is the case with many other lieutenant governors in the United States. Unlike many of his counterparts, the Lieutenant Governor regularly presides over Senate sessions rather than delegating this role to the president pro tempore or majority leader.List of colonial governors of Virginia
This is a list of colonial governors of Virginia.
Note: Some of those who held the lead role as governor of Virginia never visited the New World and governed through deputies resident in the colony. Others, such as Thomas West, 3rd Baron De La Warr, held the lead role for many years, but were only in Virginia a short portion of that time, delegating to others most of the time. Probably for those reasons, in many historical documents and references, the deputies and lieutenant governors who had the primary responsibility in Virginia are also often titled simply "governor". Also, transportation from England routinely took several months, and occasionally, much longer. Thus, dates may appear to overlap.List of counties in West Virginia
The U.S. state of West Virginia has 55 counties. Fifty of them existed at the time of the Wheeling Convention in 1861, before which West Virginia was part of the Commonwealth of Virginia. The remaining five (Grant, Mineral, Lincoln, Summers, and Mingo) were formed within the state after its admission to the United States on June 20, 1863. At that time, Berkeley County and Jefferson County, the two easternmost counties of West Virginia, refused to recognize their inclusion in the state. In March 1866, the United States Congress passed a joint mandate assenting to their inclusion.The West Virginia Constitution was ratified in 1872, replacing the state constitution created in 1863 when West Virginia became a state. Article 9, Section 8, of the West Virginia Constitution permits the creation of additional counties if a majority of citizens in the proposed new county vote for its creation and the new county has a minimum area of 400 square miles (1,036 km2) and a population of at least 6,000. Creation of a new county is prohibited if it would bring another county below these thresholds. Three counties (Greenbrier, Kanawha, and Randolph) have sufficient population and land area to allow a new county to be split off. The remaining counties cannot be split, as either their land area would decrease to under 400 square miles, or their population would decrease to below 6,000. Population figures are based on the 2010 United States Census.
The role of counties in local government had been minimized under the 1863 constitution, which vested most local government authority in a system of townships based on the New England model. The authors of the 1872 constitution chose to return to the system used in Virginia, in which each county was governed by a county court with combined authority for executive, legislative, and judicial functions of the county government. In 1880, West Virginia amended its constitution and replaced the county court system with an arrangement that divides county government powers between seven county offices, each of which is independently elected: the county commission, county clerk, circuit clerk, county sheriff, county assessor, county prosecuting attorney, and county surveyor of lands. Counties have only those powers that are expressly granted to them by the state Constitution or by state statute. These powers include, but are not limited to, maintaining the infrastructure of the state, funding libraries, maintaining jails and hospitals, and waste disposal. Reforming public education became a county function in 1933. In May 1933, a county unit plan was adopted. Under this plan, the state's 398 school districts were consolidated into the current 55 county school systems. This enabled public schools to be funded more economically and saved West Virginia millions of dollars.Randolph County is the largest by area at 1,040 square miles (2,694 km2), and Hancock County is the smallest at 83 square miles (215 km2). Kanawha County contributed land to the founding of 12 West Virginia counties and has the largest population (193,063 in 2010). Wirt County has the smallest population (5,717 in 2010). The oldest county is Hampshire, established in 1754, and the newest is Mingo, established in 1895. Spruce Knob, located in Pendleton County, is the state's highest point at 4,863 feet (1,482 m). Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) codes, which are used by the United States government to identify counties uniquely, are five-digit numbers. For West Virginia, they start with 54 and end with the three-digit county code (for example, Barbour County has FIPS code 54001). Each county's code is provided in the table below, linked to census data for that county.Terry McAuliffe
Terence Richard McAuliffe (born February 9, 1957) is an American politician and former entrepreneur who served as the 72nd Governor of Virginia from 2014 to 2018. He was chair of the Democratic National Committee from 2001 to 2005, was co-chair of President Bill Clinton's 1996 re-election campaign and 1997 Presidential inauguration, and was chair of Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign.
McAuliffe was previously an unsuccessful candidate for the Democratic nomination in the 2009 gubernatorial election. In the 2013 gubernatorial election, he ran unopposed in the Democratic primary. He defeated Republican Ken Cuccinelli and Libertarian Robert Sarvis in the general election, collecting 47.8% of the vote; Cuccinelli garnered 45.2% and Sarvis received 6.5%. McAuliffe assumed office on January 11, 2014, and his term ended on January 13, 2018.Tim Kaine
Timothy Michael Kaine (, born February 26, 1958) is an American attorney and politician serving as the junior United States Senator from Virginia since 2013. A member of the Democratic Party, he previously served as the 38th Lieutenant Governor of Virginia from 2002 to 2006 and 70th Governor of Virginia from 2006 to 2010. Kaine was the Democratic nominee for Vice President of the United States in the 2016 election.
Born in Saint Paul, Minnesota, Kaine grew up in Overland Park, Kansas, graduated from the University of Missouri and earned a Juris Doctor degree from Harvard Law School before entering private practice and becoming a lecturer at the University of Richmond School of Law. He was first elected to public office in 1994, when he won a seat on the Richmond City Council. He was then elected Mayor of Richmond in 1998 and was in that position until being elected Lieutenant Governor of Virginia in 2001. Kaine was elected Governor of Virginia in 2005 and was in that office from 2006 to 2010. He was chairman of the Democratic National Committee from 2009 to 2011.
On July 22, 2016, Hillary Clinton announced that she had selected Kaine to be her vice presidential running mate in the 2016 presidential election, and the 2016 Democratic National Convention nominated him on July 27. Despite winning a plurality of the national popular vote, the Clinton-Kaine ticket lost the Electoral College, and thus the election, to the Republican ticket of Donald Trump and Mike Pence on November 8, 2016.
Governors of Virginia
|Colony of Virginia|
|Commonwealth of Virginia|
Chief executives of the United States
Virginia statewide elected officials