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Which States Have the Most Living Ex-Governors?

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250 ex-governors are still living in the United States; New Jersey has five times more living former governors (10) than Connecticut and Wyoming (2)

This is the fourth in a series of historical reports leading up to the gubernatorial elections of 2010. Past reports have examined the historic Class of 2002 and its large number of first-term governors, the success rate of ex-governors trying to reclaim their office, and plurality winning gubernatorial campaigns.

With ex-governors enjoying a 57 percent success rate in comeback bids since World War II, and a 63 percent success rate in open contests, it should be no surprise that five former governors are vying for their old jobs back in the 2010 election cycle - the largest number in a quarter century.

But what states have the largest pools of ex-governors who could be tempted to run again if they should get the itch?

A Smart Politics analysis of National Governors Association data finds that 250 ex-governors are still living today, or an average of five per state.

New Jersey leads the way with 10 surviving governors, followed by Delaware (8), Virginia (8), Florida (7), and Kentucky (7).

Of New Jersey's 10 ex-governors, four were not elected: Donald T. DiFrancesco (2001-2002) assumed office after Christine Todd Whitman resigned to become EPA Administrator under George W. Bush, John Bennett (2002) was governor for four days after DiFrancesco and prior to Jim McGreevey's first day in office, and Senate President Richard Codey became acting governor in 2004 when McGreevey resigned from office. Attorney General John Farmer was also briefly acting governor during the transition from DiFrancesco to Bennett.

On the margins, it makes sense that certain states would have a larger number of living ex-governors - namely, those states with laws that encourage a high turnover of officeholders.

For example, Virginia (8 surviving ex-governors) turns over governors with a greater frequency than most states due to its constitution forbidding a governor to run for consecutive four-year terms.

Meanwhile, states like New Hampshire (6) and Vermont (5) have the potential for quicker turnover - and thus younger governors out of office - as gubernatorial elections are held every two years.

Interestingly, the five former governors running for their old office in 2010 all come from states that are at or below the nationwide average for the number of living ex-governors per state: Georgia (with 5, Roy Barnes), Maryland (5, Robert Erhlich), Oregon (5, John Kitzhaber), Iowa (4, Terry Branstad), and California (4, Jerry Brown, pictured).

Washington (6) is home to the nation's oldest current living ex-governor with Democrat Albert Rosellini (pictured at top). Rosellini, who turned 100 in January, governed the Evergreen State from 1957 to 1965 and has seen seven other governors succeed him.

Fifteen other former governors are more than 90 years old while another 58 are at least 80 years of age.

But not every state has a large pool of ex-governors to dust off and bring back onto the campaign trail. Wyoming, which has seen each of its last five governors serve at least eight years in office, only has two surviving ex-governors - Michael Sullivan and Jim Geringer.

Connecticut also only has two living ex-governors, with one of them essentially unelectable as a former federal felon on corruption charges (John Rowland).

Michigan's three surviving ex-governors (William Milliken, James Blanchard, John Engler) were in office a combined 34 years dating back to the 1960s. Similarly, Hawaii's three living ex-governors (George Ariyoshi, John Waihee III, Ben Cayetano) served a combined 28 years from 1974-2002.

With more than two-dozen governors term-limited or retiring from office at the end of this year, it is conceivable some will attempt to resurrect their political careers like Brown, Barnes, Erhlich, Kitzhaber, and Branstad) with a run for office down the road in 2014 or 2018.

Number of Living Ex-Governors by State

State
#
Governors
New Jersey
10
Brendan Byrne, Thomas Kean, James Florio, Christine Todd Whitman, Donald DiFrancesco, John Farmer, John Bennett, Richard Codey, Jim McGreevey, Jon Corzine
Delaware
8
David Buckson, Russell Peterson, Sherman Tribbitt, Pierre de Pont IV, Mike Castle, Dale Wolf, Tom Carper, Ruth Ann Minner
Virginia
8
Linwood Holton, Chuck Robb, Gerald Baliles, Douglas Wilder, George Allen, Jim Gilmore, Mark Warner, Tim Kaine
Florida
7
Claude Kirk, Reubin Askew, Bob Graham, Wayne Mixson, Bob Martinez, Buddy MacKay, Jeb Bush
Kentucky
7
Wendell Ford, Julian Carroll, John Brown, Martha Layne Collins, Brereton Jones, Paul Patton, Ernie Fletcher
Alabama
6
John Patterson, Albert Brewer, Jere Beasley, Fob James, Jim Folsom Jr., Don Siegelman
Alaska
6
Keith Miller, Bill Sheffield, Steve Cowper, Tony Knowles, Frank Murkowski, Sarah Palin
Arizona
6
Raul Castro, Bruce Babbitt, Rose Mofford, Fife Symington III, Jane Dee Hull, Janet Napolitano
Missouri
6
Kit Bond, Jospeh Teasdale, John Ashcroft, Roger Wilson, Bob Holden, Matt Blunt
Nebraska
6
Norbert Tiemann, Charles Thone, Bob Kerrey, Kay Orr, Ben Nelson, Mike Johanns
New Hampshire
6
Walter Peterson, John H. Sununu, Judd Gregg, Steve Merrill, Jeanne Shaheen, Craig Benson
Washington
6
Albert Rosellini, Daniel Evans, John Spellman, Booth Gardner, Michael Lowry, Gary Locke
Arkansas
5
Dale Bumpers, David Pryor, Bill Clinton, Jim Guy Tucker, Mike Huckabee
Georgia
5
Carl Sanders, Jimmy Carter, Joe Frank Harris, Zell Miller, Roy Barnes
Idaho
5
Cecil Andrus, John Evans, Phil Batt, Dirk Kempthorne, Jim Risch
Illinois
5
Daniel Walker, James Thompson, Jim Edgar, George Ryan, Rod Blagojevich
Kansas
5
John Anderson, John Carlin, Mike Hayden, Bill Graves, Kathleen Sebelius
Maine
5
John Reed, Kenneth Curtis, Joseph Brennan, Jock McKernan, Angus King
Maryland
5
Marvin Mandel, Harry Hughes, William Schaefer, Parris Glendening, Robert Ehrlich
Massachusetts
5
Michael Dukakis, William Weld, Paul Cellucci, Jane Swift, Mitt Romney
Mississippi
5
Bill Waller, William Winter, William Allain, Ray Mabus, Ronnie Musgrove
Montana
5
Tim Babcock, Ted Schwinden, Stan Stephens, Marc Racicot, Judy Martz
Nevada
5
Paul Laxalt, Robert List, Richard Bryan, Bob Miller, Kenny Guinn
New Mexico
5
David Cargo, Jerry Apodaca, Toney Anaya, Garrey Carruthers, Gary Johnson
Ohio
5
John Gilligan, Dick Celeste, George Voinovich, Nancy Hollister, Bob Taft
Oklahoma
5
David Hall, David Boren, George Nigh, David Walters, Frank Keating
Oregon
5
Mark Hatfield, Victor Atiyeh, Neil Goldschmidt, Barbara Roberts, John Kitzhaber
Pennsylvania
5
George Leader, William Scranton, Dick Thornburgh, Tom Ridge, Mark Schweiker
Rhode Island
5
Philip Noel, J. Joseph Garrahy, Edward DiPrete, Bruce Sundlun, Lincoln Almond
South Carolina
5
Ernest Hollings, James Edwards, Richard Riley, David Beasley, Jim Hodges
Vermont
5
F. Ray Keyser, Philip Hoff, Thomas Salmon, Madeleine Kunin, Howard Dean
West Virginia
5
Hulett Smith, Jay Rockefeller, Arch Moore, Gaston Caperton, Bob Wise
Wisconsin
5
Patrick Lucey, Martin Schreiber, Anthony Earl, Tommy Thompson, Scott McCallum
California
4
Jerry Brown, George Deukmejian, Pete Wilson, Gray Davis
Colorado
4
John Vanderhoof, Dick Lamm, Roy Romer, Bill Owens
Indiana
4
Edgar Whitcomb, Otis Bowen, Evan Bayh, Joe Kernan
Iowa
4
Robert Fulton, Robert Ray, Terry Branstad, Tom Vilsack
Louisiana
4
Edwin Edwards, Buddy Roemer, Mike Foster, Kathleen Blanco
Minnesota
4
Wendell Anderson, Al Quie, Arne Carlson, Jesse Ventura
New York
4
Hugh Carey, Mario Cuomo, George Pataki, Eliot Spitzer
North Carolina
4
James Holshouser, Jim Hunt, Jim Martin, Mike Easley
North Dakota
4
William Guy, Allen Olson, George Sinner, Ed Schafer
South Dakota
4
Frank Farrar, Harvey Wollman, Walter Miller, William Janklow
Tennessee
4
Winfield Dunn, Lamar Alexander, Ned McWherter, Don Sundquist
Texas
4
Dolph Briscoe, Mark White, William Clements, George W. Bush
Utah
4
Norman Bangerter, Michael Leavitt, Olene Walker, Jon Huntsman
Hawaii
3
George Ariyoshi, John Waihee III, Ben Cayetano
Michigan
3
William Milliken, James Blanchard, John Engler
Connecticut
2
Lowell Weicker, John Rowland
Wyoming
2
Michael Sullivan, Jim Geringer
Total
250
 
National Governors Association data compiled by Smart Politics. Data includes former acting governors and other governors who were not elected to the office. Data excludes territorial governors (e.g. Alaska's Michael Stepovich).

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