Seven people served as governor of Colorado Territory over eight terms, appointed by the President of the United States. Since statehood, there have been 36 governors, serving 41 distinct terms. The longest-serving governors were Richard "Dick" Lamm and Roy Romer, who each served twelve years over three terms. The shortest term occurred on March 17, 1905, a day when the state had three governors: Alva Adams won the election, but soon after he took office, the legislature declared his opponent, James Peabody, governor, but on the condition that he immediately resign, so that his lieutenant governor, Jesse McDonald, could be governor. Thus, Peabody served only a few minutes as governor.
The self-proclaimed Provisional Government of the Territory of Jefferson was organized on November 7, 1859. Jefferson Territory included all of present-day Colorado, but extended about 3 miles (5 km) farther east, 138 miles (222 km) farther north, and about 50 miles (80 km) farther west. The territory was never recognized by the federal government in the tumultuous days before the American Civil War. The Jefferson Territory had only one governor, Robert Williamson Steele, a pro-union Democrat elected by popular vote. He proclaimed the territory dissolved on June 6, 1861, several months after the official formation of the Colorado Territory, but only days after the arrival of its first governor.
To serve as Governor, one must be at least 30 years old, be a citizen of the United States, and have been a resident of the state for at least two years prior to election. The state constitution of 1876 originally called for election of the governor every two years, with their term beginning on the second Tuesday of the January following the election. An amendment passed in 1956, taking effect in 1959, increased terms to four years. Originally, there was no term limit applied to the governor; a 1990 amendment allowed governors to succeed themselves only once. There is however no limit on the total number of terms one may serve as long as one who has served the two term limit is out of office for four years.
Should the office of governor become vacant, the lieutenant governor becomes governor. If both the offices governor and lieutenant governor are vacant, the line of succession moves down through the senior members of the state senate and state house of representatives of the same party as the governor. The lieutenant governor was elected separately from the governor until a 1968 amendment to the constitution made it so that they are elected on the same ticket.
Three of Colorado's governors have served other high offices, all three representing Colorado in the U.S. Senate and one of those also representing the state in the U.S. House. One (marked with *) resigned to take his seat in the Senate.
As of May 2015[update], there are four former U.S. governors of Colorado who are currently living at this time, the oldest U.S. governor of Colorado being Roy Romer (1987–1999, born 1928). The most recent death of a former U.S. governor of Colorado, and also the most recently serving U.S. governor of Colorado to have died, was that of John David Vanderhoof (1973–1975), who died on September 19, 2013.
^The official numbering includes repeat governors.
^Lieutenant governors represented the same party as their governor unless noted.
^The fractional terms of some governors are not to be understood absolutely literally; rather, they are meant to show single terms during which multiple governors served, due to resignations, deaths and the like.
^The Colorado State Archives labels Coates a Democrat; however, a contemporary New York Times article describes him as a Populist elected on a fusion ticket, and that he had renounced all other parties and become a Socialist.
^The Colorado State Archives says Haggott served from 1902 to 1903; however, multiple sources say he served with Peabody well into 1904, so it is assumed the Archives are in error.
^ abcThe 1904 election was rife with fraud and controversy. Alva Adams won election, but soon after he took office the Republican legislature declared James Peabody to be the actual winner, on the condition that Peabody immediately resign. Since Peabody had been governor for a few moments before resigning, it was his lieutenant governor, Jesse McDonald, that succeeded to the governorship. In all, Colorado had three governors on March 17, 1905.
^"Shafroth, John Franklin". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Clerk of the United States House of Representatives and Historian of the United States Senate. Retrieved October 22, 2008.
^"Johnson, Edwin Carl". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Clerk of the United States House of Representatives and Historian of the United States Senate. Retrieved October 22, 2008.