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Kitzhaber Launches Bid to Become 2nd Longest-Serving Governor in History

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If Oregon's Democratic governor is reelected in 2014 and serves out the entirety of his fourth term, he will trail only Iowa's Terry Branstad in all-time gubernatorial service since 1789

johnkitzhaber10.jpgJohn Kitzhaber's announcement on Monday that he would seek reelection in 2014 to a fourth nonconsecutive term sets in motion a gubernatorial contest next November that, to this point, has been largely off the radar.

Republican hopefuls for the seat are State Representative Dennis Richardson and rancher Jon Justesen, although neither candidate has inspired non-partisan pollsters to take Oregonians' temperature of the race so far this year.

On the one hand, the race's ho-hum status might be understandable: Oregon boasts the second longest Democratic gubernatorial victory streak in the nation at seven consecutive cycles - behind only neighboring Washington at eight.

However, Kitzhaber's 1.5-point win over Chris Dudley in 2010 was the fifth narrowest victory margin out of the 37 gubernatorial races on the ballot that cycle and the closest race in the Beaver State since the Election of 1956 when Democrat Robert Holmes defeated incumbent Elmo Smith by one point.

But until the Democratic governor is revealed to have vulnerable job approval or horse race numbers, it appears the most interesting question might be whether Kitzhaber serves out the entirety of his would-be fourth term (the governor would be nearly 72 years old in January 2019).

If he does, Kitzhaber would trail only one governor in the history of the country for the most days served in office.

A Smart Politics tally of gubernatorial service since 1789 finds that if Oregon's John Kitzhaber is reelected this cycle and serves the entirety of his term he will become the second longest-serving governor in U.S. history at 5,854 days.

Iowa Republican Terry Branstad owns the all-time mark for gubernatorial service during the U.S. Constitutional era at 6,907 days through Monday and will end his fifth term in January 2015 with 7,303 days in office.

Branstad is expected to run for a sixth nonconsecutive term next November and, should he win and serve until 2019, would sit at 8,766 days in office, or 33.2 percent longer than any other governor in U.S. history.

Governor Kitzhaber currently lands in 48th place for all-time gubernatorial service at 3,992 days through Monday, December 9th (10 years, 11 months, 6 days).

The Oregon governor is tied with Jerry Brown, but will hold a seven-day lead over the California Democrat at the end of their respective terms in January 2015 if neither governor is reelected with Kitzhaber at 4,391 days and Brown at 4,384 days.

At that point, Kitzhaber would be tied for 21st place in all time gubernatorial service alongside West Virginia Democrat Arch Moore.

Brown would be tied for 24th place with Democrats Mario Cuomo of New York, Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts, and Soapy Williams of Michigan and Republicans John Engler of Michigan, Thomas Dewey and George Pataki of New York, and Arthur Langlie of Washington.

Both Kitzhaber and Brown, however, are expected to be favorites in their reelection bids.

If Kitzhaber wins next November and serves until January 2019, he will record 5,854 days in office - just edging out South Dakota Republican William Janklow for second place on the all-time list.

Janklow served 5,851 days as governor of the Mount Rushmore State during two stints: 1979-1987 and 1995-2003.

In the final days of Kitzhaber's fourth term (he would be term-limited again in the 2018 cycle), the Oregon governor would also pass North Carolina Democrat Jim Hunt (5,840 days), Ohio Republican Jim Rhodes (5,840 days), and Alabama Democrat George Wallace (5,848 days).

A victorious Governor Brown next year would land him at #4 all-time with 5,849 days in office come January 2019.

Next up on the all-time list for Kitzhaber (and Brown) are Vermont Federalist Isaac Tichenor (1797-1807, 1808-1809) at 4,011 days and Massachusetts Federalist Caleb Strong (1800-1807, 1812-1816) at 4,012 days - both of whom will be passed by the end of this month.

Texas Republican Governor Rick Perry, who has already announced he will not run for reelection in 2014, will end his tenure in January 2015 at #10 on the all-time list at 5,144 days (14 years, 1 month) edging out Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson (5,142 days).

Perry is currently 18th with 4,737 days served.

Top 50 Longest-Serving Governors in U.S. History

#
State
Governor
Party
Years
# Days
1
IA
Terry Branstad*
Republican
1983-1999, 2011-present
6,907
2
SD
William Janklow
Republican
1979-1987, 1995-2003
5,851
3
AL
George Wallace
Democrat
1963-1967, 1971-1979, 1983-1987
5,848
4
NC
Jim Hunt
Democrat
1977-1985, 1993-2001
5,840
4
OH
Jim Rhodes
Republican
1963-1971, 1975-1983
5,840
6
LA
Edwin Edwards
Democrat
1972-1980, 1984-1988, 1992-1996
5,784
7
RI
Arthur Fenner
Anti-Federalist
1790-1805
5,642
8
MD
Albert Ritchie
Democrat
1920-1935
5,475
9
NY
Nelson Rockefeller
Republican
1959-1973
5,466
10
WI
Tommy Thompson
Republican
1987-2001
5,142
11
ID
Cecil Andrus
Democrat
1971-1977, 1987-1995
5,133
12
NH
John Gilman
Federalist
1794-1805, 1813-1816
5,119
13
IL
James Thompson
Republican
1977-1991
5,118
14
IA
Robert Ray
Republican
1969-1983
5,112
15
MI
William Milliken
Republican
1969-1983
5,093
16
AZ
George Hunt
Democrat
1911-1919, 1923-1929, 1931-1933
5,090
17
RI
James Fenner
Jeff-Rep; Jack-Dem, Law & Order
1807-1811, 1824-1831, 1843-1845
4,749
18
TX
Rick Perry*
Republican
2000-present
4,737
19
NJ
Isaac Williamson
Jeffersonian Republican
1817-1829
4,650
20
TN
William Carroll
Jeffersonian-Republican; Democrat
1821-1827, 1829-1835
4,395
21
WV
Arch Moore
Democrat
1969-1977, 1985-1989
4,391
22
NM
Bruce King
Democrat
1971-1975, 1979-1983, 1991-1995
4,386
23
WA
Daniel Evans
Republican
1965-1977
4,385
24
MA
Michael Dukakis
Democrat
1975-1979, 1983-1991
4,384
24
MI
Soapy Williams
Democrat
1949-1961
4,384
24
MI
John Engler
Republican
1991-2003
4,384
24
NY
Thomas Dewey
Republican
1943-1955
4,384
24
NY
Mario Cuomo
Democrat
1983-1995
4,384
24
NY
George Pataki
Republican
1995-2007
4,384
24
WA
Arthur Langlie
Republican
1941-1945-1949-1957
4,384
31
AR
Orval Faubus
Democrat
1955-1967
4,383
31
CO
Richard Lamb
Democrat
1975-1987
4,383
31
CO
Roy Romer
Democrat
1987-1999
4,383
31
HI
John Burns
Democrat
1962-1974
4,383
31
HI
George Ariyoshi
Democrat
1974-1986
4,383
31
ID
Robert Smylie
Republican
1955-1967
4,383
31
UT
Cal Rampton
Democrat
1965-1977
4,383
31
WY
Edgar Herschler
Democrat
1975-1987
4,383
39
ND
William Guy
Democrat
1961-1973
4,382
40
AR
Bill Clinton
Democrat
1979-1981, 1983-1992
4,366
41
AK
William Egan
Democrat
1959-1966, 1970-1974
4,353
42
MS
John Stone
Democrat
1876-1882, 1890-1896
4,332
43
CT
Jonathan Trumball, Jr
Federalist
1797-1809
4,267
44
TN
John Sevier
Jeffersonian-Republican
1796-1801, 1803-1809
4,193
45
VT
Howard Dean
Democrat
1991-2003
4,167
46
MA
Caleb Strong
Federalist
1800-1807, 1812-1816
4,012
47
VT
Isaac Tichenor
Federalist
1797-1807, 1808-1809
4,011
48
OR
John Kitzhaber*
Democrat
1995-2003; 2011-present
3,992
48
CA
Jerry Brown*
Democrat
1975-1983; 2011-present
3,992
50
UT
Michael Leavitt
Republican
1993-2003
3,958
* Denotes a governor still in office. Through December 9, 2013. Note: Excludes pre-U.S. Constitutional gubernatorial service as well as gubernatorial service in U.S. territories. Data compiled by Smart Politics.

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3 Comments


  • What about New York Governor George Clinton? He served six terms (I believe it's 7,642 days). This would put Kitzhaber at #3, right?

  • The majority of Clinton's tenure was before the U.S. Constitution went into effect in 1789. (As noted above in the text and table footnote, the tally of gubernatorial service does not include the pre-U.S. Constitutional period.

  • Missed the footnote. Thanks for the clarification!

  • Leave a comment


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