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Do Governors Have Term Limits?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 23, 2024
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The laws about term limits for governors in the United States vary from state to state. Each state determines its own system, and the rules can get a bit entangled and complex, at least in the view of outsiders. Before delving into the mysteries of term limits by state, it may help to know that, for the most part, a given term lasts four years, unless the official is impeached, except in New Hampshire and Vermont, where they serve for two years only. If a governor steps down or is removed from office, the lieutenant governor usually steps in.

Term limits are designed to keep the political system fresh, and to ensure that people do not have an opportunity to consolidate power. Governors can be tremendously influential in their states, making term limits rather critical, as one may easily become more like an emperor than an elected official if there are no limits on service. This is especially true in the case of large and powerful states such as New York, California, and Texas.

In Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, Texas, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin, there are no term limits for this office. Officials can serve as many terms as citizens are willing to elect them. Virginia also lacks term limits, but politicians cannot serve consecutive terms, which prevents the formation of a dynastic gubernatorial office.

Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Wyoming all limit governors to two consecutive terms. In many of these states, the person may run again after taking a hiatus, although it is a relatively rare event.

In Arkansas and Delaware, governors are limited to two terms, period, consecutive or not. Indiana, Nebraska, and Ohio allows them to serve as many terms as they like, but after two consecutive terms, they must take four years off. In Montana, one may serve eight years in every 16.

For those curious about term limits in American territories, Puerto Rico has no term limits, the Northern Marianas have an absolute two term limit, and those in the Virgin Islands must observe a four year waiting period after two consecutive terms, at which point they may run again. Guam and American Samoa limit their governors to two consecutive terms.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a Historical Index researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon333548 — On May 06, 2013

@Crispety: Bill Clinton served five terms as Arkansas Governor from 1979-1981 and again from 1983 until his resignation in 1992.

By anon123692 — On Nov 03, 2010

George W. Bush does not speak fluent Spanish unless he recently learned it. I met him in El Paso Texas in 1995 when he visited the Armijo Library Branch in El Paso. Why do you say he speaks Spanish fluently or how do you define "fluently"?

By SauteePan — On Nov 01, 2010

Comfyshoes-Some black governors include Governor Patterson of New York. He obtained the office of the governor after, the elected democratic governor, Elliot Spitzer resigned in an embarrassing scandal in which he was arranging for an escort to meet him and cross state lines to do so.

The governor’s office was also plagued with problems with Patterson as his approval rating plummeted to the twenties. His misguidance on many key issues like raising taxes when the state was having severe economic problems was the main culprit.

Many wealthy New Yorkers left the state and the tax revenue actually declined although they had raised taxes. This proves that raising taxes will not bring additional tax revenue.

Only lowering taxes will because it will give people incentives to spend the additional money in the economy and it will also allow businesses to expand and hire more workers. So really everyone wins.

By comfyshoes — On Nov 01, 2010

Crispety- Sarah Palin ran for governor of Alaska and beat an incumbent republican for the republican nomination.

The elder Murkowski, who is a household name in Alaska, now has his daughter running in the senate race and she is an incumbent. Sarah Palin endorsed Joe Miller who won the Republican nomination, but Murkowski is now on the ballot as a write in candidate.

Sarah Palin developed a no nonsense approach to politics that many felt was a breath of fresh air compared to the standard corruption that was going on in the state and in the country by career politicians.

She was the keynote speaker of the national governor’s association event that was held in Florida. Her unconventional style of standing up for what’s right instead of yielding to political pressure has worn her much love from the true conservatives of the Republican Party, but much disdain from the liberal media.

The same way the former governor of California, President Ronald Reagan was mocked, so is Sarah Palin. President Regan was a powerful force in politics that changed the world wide political landscape. I do not think Sarah Palin is too far behind him. This is why the media is so focused on her because she is a threat.

By Crispety — On Nov 01, 2010

Cupcake15-One of the most famous democrat governors was President Bill Clinton. Bill Clinton served as Arkansas Governor for two terms.

It is said that this launched his political career. Some famous Republican Governors include Jeb Bush, brother of President George W. Bush and son of President George H. W. Bush. He was a republican governor of the state of Florida that was very popular and many had hoped would run for President.

Both Jeb Bush and President George W. Bush speak fluent Spanish and often conducted campaign commercials in that language. But the most famous republican governor to date has to be Sarah Palin.

By cupcake15 — On Nov 01, 2010

The state of Florida allows a governor to serve two terms only. Our current Governor, Charlie Crist was considered one of the Republican Governors, but now he changed his party affiliation to Independent, when he lost his bid for the Republican nomination to Marco Rubio for senate.

Charlie Crist is a very unpopular Governor and many believe his early embracing of the Obama agenda was the catalyst. It is also rumored that if elected Senator, Charlie Crist would caucus with the Democrats. In fact, he attempted to ask the democratic nominee for senate, Kendrick Meek to drop out of the race in order for him to beat Marco Rubio.

Meek however, said that he was staying in the race as many supporters of his were angry at Crist for trying to manipulate the race. This leaves many Floridians to wonder if Charlie Crist was ever a Republican.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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