Governor of Oklahoma
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|Governor of Oklahoma|
Standard of the Governor
|Residence||Oklahoma Governor's Mansion|
|Term length||Four years, renewable once (maximum lifetime)|
|Inaugural holder||Charles N. Haskell|
|Formation||November 16, 1907|
|This article is part of a series on the|
politics and government of
The Governor of Oklahoma is the head of state for the U.S. state of Oklahoma. Under the Oklahoma Constitution, the governor is also the head of government, serving as the chief executive of the Oklahoma executive branch, of the government of Oklahoma. The governor is the ex officio Commander-in-Chief of the Oklahoma National Guard when not called into federal use. Despite being an executive branch official, the governor also holds legislative and judicial powers. The governor's responsibilities include making yearly "State of the State" addresses to the Oklahoma Legislature, submitting the annual state budget, ensuring that state laws are enforced, and that the peace is preserved. The governor's term is four years in length.
The office was created in 1907 when Oklahoma was officially admitted to the United States as the 46th state. Prior to statehood in 1907, the office was preceded by a Presidential appointed Governor of Oklahoma Territory with similar powers. The 28th and current Governor of Oklahoma is Kevin Stitt, a member of the Republican Party.
Before statehood in 1907, modern day Oklahoma was composed of Oklahoma and Indian territories. While Indian Territory was semi-independent of the federal government as Indian nations land, Oklahoma Territory was an organized territory under the supervision of the United States Congress. Within the Oklahoma Territory, a tripartite government existed, including a territorial legislature, a territorial supreme court, and a territorial governor.
The President of the United States appointed territorial governors to four-year terms. Despite a set term, the governor served at the pleasure of the U.S. president, meaning that the president could replace him before his term was up.
The governor was the head of the territorial government. He had the power to veto legislation proposed by the territorial legislature and the power to appoint members to his cabinet, who in turn had to be ratified by territorial lawmakers. The governor had the power to appoint justices to the territorial high court. The governor was responsible to the U.S. president on addressing issues in the territory and served as the representative as the federal government of the United States. He was also the Commander in Chief of the territorial militia.
George Washington Steele served as the first governor of Oklahoma Territory. He vetoed the territorial legislature's attempts to move the state capital from Guthrie to Oklahoma City or Kingfisher. He was instrumental in the establishment of two universities that would become the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University. After only seventeen months in office, Steele resigned effective October 18, 1891. In his place, President Benjamin Harrison appointed Abraham Jefferson Seay to the governorship. Robert Martin, Secretary of Oklahoma Territory, served as acting governor from October 18, 1891, until February 1892, when Seay took the oath of office.
After the Oklahoma Constitution was written and accepted in 1907, the Oklahoma and Indian territories joined to form the U.S. state of Oklahoma. The office of the governor of Oklahoma replaced the office of territorial governor. The new office was similar, but designed with new restrictions, limits, and legislative and judicial oversight. It was crafted as a "weak governor system" to defend the state against abuses of power that had occurred under the territorial government.
Oklahoma's first governor, Charles N. Haskell, wielded executive power effectively, but in the first 20 years after he left office in 1911, the Oklahoma Legislature further limited the governor's office of its powers and impeached governors John C. Walton and Henry S. Johnston. It was not until William H. Murray took office in 1935 that the governorship expanded its powers.
In 1927, the state legislature appropriated $75,000 for the construction of a governor's mansion and $25,000 for furnishings. In 1928, the governor and his family moved in.
As Oklahoma grew and the state government expanded, the office of the governor became gradually more powerful. As more agencies were introduced, the governor gained greater indirect influence through the power of appointment.
Initially the governor was not eligible to immediately succeed himself. It was not until 1966 that Oklahoma amended the state constitution to allow the governor to serve two consecutive terms.
The governor of Oklahoma is elected directly by the voters of Oklahoma during gubernatorial elections held in November during the final year of each four-year gubernatorial term. The candidate with the highest number of votes becomes governor following the election. The Oklahoma Constitution requires the Oklahoma Legislature to choose the governor in the case of a tie vote.
Section Three of Article VI of the Oklahoma Constitution establishes that gubernatorial candidates must be citizens of the United States, at least 31 years old, and residents of Oklahoma for at least ten years prior to their candidacy.
Under Section Four in Article VI of the Oklahoma Constitution, the governor serves a four-year term in office beginning on the second Monday in January. Section Four also states that no person may hold the office for more than two consecutive terms. On November 2, 2010, voters passed a ballot initiative to limit governors to only eight years in office in a lifetime. The initiative also set the gubernatorial term of a lieutenant governor who becomes governor upon the death of the previous governor; upon the lieutenant governor's succession, he or she is to serve out two years of the governor's term.
Oath of office
"I, ........., do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support, obey, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and the Constitution of the State of Oklahoma, and that I will not, knowingly, receive, directly or indirectly, any money or other valuable thing, for the performance or nonperformance of any act or duty pertaining to my office, other than the compensation allowed by law; I further swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully discharge my duties as Governor of the State of Oklahoma to the best of my ability."
Powers and duties
The governor, according to the Oklahoma Constitution, must "take care that the laws be faithfully executed." The governor is vested with "supreme executive power" as the state's "Chief Magistrate" and acts as head of the executive branch of Oklahoma. The governor has the power to issue executive orders that have the effect of law. The governor is the "conservator of the peace throughout the State," making him or her the chief peace officer in the state. In the position of chief peace officer, the governor commands state and local law enforcement agencies. In the event that law enforcement entities cannot execute the law, the governor, acting as Commander-in-Chief of Oklahoma's state militia, may call out the Oklahoma National Guard to "execute the laws, protect the public health, suppress insurrection, and repel invasion." The governor is assisted in managing the military of Oklahoma by the Adjutant General of Oklahoma, who he or she appoints to office.
The governor has the power to commission officers not otherwise commissioned by the law of Oklahoma and has the power of appointment. When any office at the state level becomes vacant for any reason, the governor, unless otherwise provided by law, has the power to appoint a person to fill such vacancy, who shall continue in office until the election or appointment of a successor. If the office of an Oklahoma member of the United States House of Representatives or United States Senate becomes vacant the governor calls a special election to fill the remainder of the term. In the case of United States senators, the governor is empowered by the U.S. Constitution to appoint someone immediately to fill the vacant Senate seat temporarily until a special election can be held.
Within the executive branch of Oklahoma government, the governor is assisted by the Lieutenant Governor of Oklahoma, the Secretary of State of Oklahoma, the Attorney General of Oklahoma, and the State Treasurer of Oklahoma, among others. While the other high level executive offices are elected directly by the people of Oklahoma, the Secretary of State is appointed by the governor with the consent of the Oklahoma Senate for a four-year term. Due to the large number of state agencies, the governor is assisted in running the government through the use of the Oklahoma State Cabinet. Through the Cabinet, the Governor can address the assembled heads of Oklahoma's executive branch departments which oversee Oklahoma's agencies. A secretary appointed by the governor heads each department and carryies out his executive orders through that department.
The governor is an ex officio chair of numerous state commissions and committees, including the Oklahoma Commissioners of Land Office and the Oklahoma Ethics Commission. While there are executive and state commissions of which the governor is not a member, he or she has appointment power to those entities with the advice and consent of the Oklahoma Senate, such as with the Board of Regents of the University of Oklahoma.
The governor is also responsible for preparing the proposed Oklahoma state budget presented to the Oklahoma Legislature in February for the next fiscal year beginning in July. After state legislators negotiate the terms of the budget with the governor, the Oklahoma House of Representatives drafts a general appropriations bill that must be approved by the legislature and signed by the governor.
Legislative and judicial powers
Like the President of the United States, the governor plays a major role in the legislative process. Every bill that is passed by both the Oklahoma Senate and Oklahoma House of Representatives, and every resolution requiring the assent of both chambers of the legislature, must, before it becomes a law, be presented to the governor. The governor may choose to sign it or veto it and send it back to the legislature. The governor's veto can only be overridden by a two-thirds approval vote from each house.
The governor has the power of the line-item veto, which allows them to sign part of appropriation bills into law, while sending appropriations items they disagree with back to the legislature. Items disapproved by the governor in this manner become void, unless the legislation is re-passed in both the Oklahoma House of Representatives and Oklahoma Senate with a two-thirds vote in favor of overriding the veto.
Bills that are part of the governor's agenda are often drafted at the initiative of the governor or governor's staff. In annual and special messages to the Oklahoma Legislature, the governor may propose legislation. The most important annual message to state lawmakers takes place in the annual State of the State address. Before a joint session of the Oklahoma Legislature, the governor outlines the status of the state and legislative proposals for the upcoming year. The governor is in a strong position to influence public opinion and thereby to influence the actions of state legislators.
The governor has the power to convoke the legislature, or the Oklahoma Senate only, on extraordinary occasions. During extraordinary sessions, state legislators can only act on subjects the governor recommends for consideration. When ever a vacancy occurs within the state legislature, the governor shall issue a writ of election to fill such vacancies. In case of a disagreement between the two houses of the legislature, at a regular or special session, the governor may adjourn them to such time as he shall deem proper, not beyond the day of the next stated meeting of the legislature. He or she may convoke the Oklahoma Legislature at or adjourn it to another place, when, in his opinion, the public safety or welfare, or the safety or health of the members require it. Such a change or adjournment must be concurred by two-thirds votes in all branches of the legislature.
The governor plays an active role within the judicial branch of Oklahoma government. Oklahoma has a Judicial Nominating Commission consisting of thirteen members that review all potential justices and judges of Oklahoma's appellate courts, such as the Oklahoma Supreme Court, and review them to determine if they qualify to hold their respective positions. Of these thirteen members, the governor appoints six without the consent of the Oklahoma Legislature. The governor's appointments serve for a term of six years each; the terms are staggered so that approximately one-third of the appointments become vacant every two years.
In the event of a vacancy upon the Oklahoma Supreme Court or on the Court of Criminal Appeals, the Judicial Nominating Committee submits three nominees to fill the vacancy to the governor and Oklahoma Supreme Court chief justice. The governor must appoint one to fill the vacancy within 60 days or the appointment is turned over to the chief justice.
The governor also possess the power to grant commutations, pardons and paroles for all offenses, except cases of impeachment, upon such conditions and with such restrictions and limitations as he may deem proper, subject to such regulations as may be prescribed by law. The governor does not have the power to grant paroles if a convict has been sentenced to death or sentenced to life imprisonment without parole. In order to grant a pardon to an individual, he must submit the name of the individual to the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board composed of five members, three of which are appointed by the governor at the beginning of his term in office to serve a term that coincides with his own. After reviewing the applicant for clemency, and a favorable vote from the majority, the board may empower the governor to make such acts of as he deems necessary.
The governor has the power to grant after conviction, reprieves, or a leave of absence not to exceed sixty days, without the action of the board. The governor is required to communicate to the Oklahoma Legislature, at each regular session, each case of reprieve, commutation, parole or pardon, granted, stating the name of the convict, the crime of which he was convicted, the date and place of conviction, and the date of commutation, pardon, parole and reprieve.
The governor, as Oklahoma's head of state, serves as the chief representative of Oklahoma to the United States and to the world. Deals between Oklahoma and foreign powers (including other U.S. states and the United States) are negotiated by the governor. This reflects the governor's position as the spokesman for the state and the state's interests to other state and world leaders. However, the governor may not make treaties with other nations or other U.S. states, as this is prevented by the United States Constitution.
In discharging his duty as chief spokesman, the governor may be required to testify before the United States Congress or meet with the President of the United States to address national issues that may affect the state. It is the governor's responsibility to promote Oklahoma's industries to the world economy as the spokesman for industrial development within the state. Along with those responsibilities comes the role of chief promoter of Oklahoma's goods and services to foreign consumers.
The governor plays a significant role in national politics. As the representative of Oklahoma, the governor heads, on a state level, his or her political party. In this position, the governor serves as the state's leader in selecting a party candidate to run for the office of President of the United States. As Oklahoma's head of state, the governor may travel through the country to promote Oklahoma in a general interest or travel abroad to serve as proponent of America's interests.
Pursuant to the Oklahoma Emergency Management Act of 2003 and the Catastrophic Health Emergency Powers Act, in the event that a natural or man-made emergency or a catastrophic health emergency occurs or is anticipated in the immediate future, the governor gains emergency powers to better respond to the emergency and combat the threat. Either the governor through executive order or the Oklahoma Legislature through concurrent resolution may declare a state of emergency. Once declared, the governor may exercise his or her additional emergency powers. At any time, the governor (through executive order) or the state legislature (through concurrent resolution) may declare an end to the state of emergency and suspend the governor's emergency powers.
Upon the declaration of an emergency, the governor is allowed a limited-form of rule by decree. He assumes direct regulatory control over essential resources of the state. It will then be the responsibility of the governor to determine the priorities of such resources and allocate them as the governor may deem necessary. These resources include, but are not limited to, food, manpower, health and health manpower, water, transportation, economic stabilization, electric power, petroleum, gas, and solid fuel, industrial production, construction and housing.
The focus of the governor's emergency powers is to ensure the security and stability of the state and he or she receives comprehensive police powers in an emergency. In discharging those power to enforce laws, rules and regulations relating to emergency management, the governor assumes direct operational control of emergency management forces of the state, including the Oklahoma National Guard, state police agencies, state and local health departments, as well as county sheriff's offices and local police departments. These emergency police powers extend to providing for the evacuation of the state's population from any affected or threatened area or areas within the state, regulating the conduct of civilians and the movement of pedestrians and vehicular traffic, and regulating public meetings and gatherings. The governor is responsible for providing for the care of all those regulated by his or her orders.
During a state of emergency, the governor is authorized to utilize the services, equipment, supplies and facilities of all departments, offices and agencies of the state to the maximum extent practicable. State, county, and local officers and personnel must cooperate with the governor in emergency management upon his or her direction. Any state, county, or local official that willful fails to obey any order, rule or regulation issued by the governor may be removed from office by the governor. However, before removal, officers must receives the charges against them and have an opportunity to defend themselves. Pending the presentation of charges, the governor may suspend such officers for a period not to exceed thirty days. Any vacancy resulting from removal or suspension shall be filled by the governor until it is filled as provided by state law. However, according to the Oklahoma Constitution, the governor may not remove from office the elective state executive officers, the justices of the Oklahoma Supreme Court, the judges of the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals, and members of the Oklahoma Legislature.
When carrying out the functions of his or her emergency powers, the governor is immune from civilly liable for any loss or injury resulting from any decision, determination, order or action in the performance of his/her assigned duties and responsibilities during a stated emergency. However, this immunity does not apply when such loss or injury is caused by the gross negligence, or willfully and unnecessarily act by the governor.
Relationship with lieutenant governor
The Lieutenant Governor of Oklahoma is elected at the same election as the governor, but not jointly as the running mate of the gubernatorial candidate. Oklahoma currently has a governor and a lieutenant governor of the same party, as both Governor Kevin Stitt and Lieutenant Governor Matt Pinnell are of the Republican Party.
The first instance of an Oklahoma governor serving alongside a lieutenant governor of a different political party began in 1963, when Republican Governor Henry Bellmon served alongside Democratic Lieutenant Governor Leo Winters. Since then, there have been three more instances. In 1967, Republican Governor Dewey F. Bartlett served alongside Democratic Lieutenant Governor George Nigh. In 1987, Bellmon served alongside Democratic Lieutenant Governor Robert S. Kerr III. Finally, in 2002, Democratic Governor Brad Henry served alongside Republican Lieutenant Governor Mary Fallin.
The governor may appoint the lieutenant governor to her cabinet. For example, Governor Mary Fallin appointed Lieutenant Governor Todd Lamb to serve as her small business advocate within her Cabinet – although Lamb later resigned that position due to disagreements with the Governor.
A lieutenant governor can also serve as Acting Governor. When acting as the governor, the Oklahoma Constitution provides all the powers of the governor to the lieutenant governor. This includes the power of signing or vetoing legislation, making political appointments, calling out the Oklahoma National Guard, or granting pardons. The need for the lieutenant governor to act as the governor may be due to the governor's absence from the state, or his inability to discharge the powers and duties of the office. When acting as governor, the lieutenant governor holds the powers of the governor until the governor returns to the state or she is found to be able to resume her powers and duties.
Office of the Governor
|Headquarters||Oklahoma State Capitol|
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
|Annual budget||$1.98 million|
|Website||Office of the Governor|
The Office of the Governor is the state agency that supports the governor in the performance of gubernatorial duties. The agency consists of the governor's staff and is headed by the governor's chief of staff. Staffers are political appointees and serve at the pleasure of the governor. They work in the governor's Oklahoma State Capitol offices in Oklahoma City, the governor's Tulsa office and the Governor's Mansion.
As of 2013, the agency has an annual budget of approximately $1.98 million. The budget provides funding for employee salaries and benefits, operation and upkeep of the governor's offices in the Oklahoma State Capitol and Tulsa, Oklahoma, and the operation and upkeep of the Governor's Mansion.
Since 1928, Oklahoma governors reside in the Oklahoma Governor's Mansion. Before its construction, governors lived in various locations around Guthrie and Oklahoma City. Governor Charles N. Haskell set up his administration's office and his official residence within a hotel in Oklahoma City. The Oklahoma Legislature provided for the construction of an official residence after years of debate in 1927. The next year, in 1928, the mansion was completed.
Built by an Oklahoma City architectural firm, Layton, Hicks and Forsyth, the mansion is of Dutch-Colonial style. Carthage limestone was used so the exterior of the Mansion would complement the Oklahoma State Capitol, which is located to the west of the mansion. The state legislature allocated $100,000 of state money ($75,000 for construction and $25,000 for furnishing) to the project. Two years later, another $39,000 was set aside to complete outbuildings and landscaping. Though originally having 19 rooms, today the 14,000-square-foot (1,300 m2) Mansion has 12, including a library, parlor, dining room, grand ballroom, kitchen, sunroom and five bedrooms.
The mansion also serves as an active museum. Throughout the mansion there are antiques and artwork from both museum and private collections. The museum is designed to provide a glimpse into Oklahoma's history and culture. Artists represented in oil and bronze include N.C. Wyeth, Charles Marion Russell, Thomas Moran and Albert Beirstadt.
As per the Oklahoma Constitution, if the governor is impeached, resigns, dies, leaves the state, fails to qualify or is unable to serve, the lieutenant governor fills the vacancy, either temporarily or for the remainder of the gubanatorial term.
If, during a vacancy of the office of governor, the lieutenant governor is impeached, displaced, resigns, dies, is absent from the state, or becomes incapable of performing the duties of the office, the president pro tempore of the state senate is the next official in the gubanatorial line of succession. The Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives is third in line of gubernatorial succession.
If the governor, lieutenant governor, senate president pro tempore, and speaker are unable to act as governor, then the next official in the line of succession becomes the emergency interim successor. As the emergency interim successor to the governor, the officer may exercise the powers and discharge the duties of the governor until a new governor is elected or until the disability is removed from the governor or higher official. The emergency interim successor does not however inherit the title of governor, unless there is a man-made or natural emergency or disaster has occurred in the United States. The Oklahoma Legislature, by concurrent resolution, may terminate the authority of any emergency interim successor to exercise the powers and discharge the duties of the governor.
Line of succession
As provided by the Oklahoma Constitution and the Oklahoma Emergency Interim Executive and Judicial Succession Act, the line of succession to the Governorship is as follows:
|May succeed to Governorship|
|Governor of Oklahoma||Kevin Stitt|
|1||Lieutenant Governor of Oklahoma||Matt Pinnell|
|2||President Pro Tempore of the Senate||Greg Treat|
|3||Speaker of the House of Representatives||Charles McCall|
|May serve as Emergency Interim Successor|
|4||State Auditor and Inspector||Cindy Byrd|
|5||Attorney General||Michael J. Hunter|
|6||State Treasurer||Randy McDaniel|
|7||State School Superintendent||Joy Hofmeister|
|8||Labor Commissioner||Melissa McLawhorn Houston|
|9||Corporation Commissioner (by length of tenure)||Bob Anthony|
- Between the births of Charles N. Haskell in 1860 and Kevin Stitt in 1972, governors have been born in every decade
- Governors have been born in eleven states and the federal district
- Ten governors have been born in Oklahoma, in ten different counties
- Muskogee, Oklahoma, has produced more governors than any other location:
- The first governor born was Charles N. Haskell on March 13, 1860
- The most recent governor born is Kevin Stitt on December 28, 1972
- The shortest term in office was nine days by George Nigh in 1963 (January 6 – 14, 1963)
- Sworn in at age 33, J. Howard Edmondson was the youngest governor
- Sworn in at age 61, William H. Murray was the oldest governor
- The oldest living former governor is George Nigh at age 91
- The youngest living former governor is Brad Henry at age 55
- Henry S. Johnston has the longest life span of any governor, 97 years
- J. Howard Edmondson has the shortest life span of any governor, 46 years
- No governor has died while in office
- Three governors have been impeached, two were removed from office
- Between the deaths of Lee Cruce in 1933 and David Hall in 2016, former governors have died in every decade except in the 1980s
- Born in 1896, Robert S. Kerr was the first governor born in what would become Oklahoma
- Born in 1908, Raymond D. Gary was the first governor born in Oklahoma after statehood in 1907
- E. W. Marland has the shortest post-governorship, 2 years
- George Nigh has the longest post-governorship, 16 years between 1963 and 1979, and nearly 31 years between 1987 and today, for a total of nearly 47 years.
- Of the 27 people to hold the office of governor through 2019, twenty-one have been Democrats and six have been Republicans.
- Mary Fallin is the first, and currently, the only female governor.
- Two governors are relatives:
- There are currently six living former governors
- Three Lieutenant Governors have been elevated to the governorship
- Five governors have served more than one term
- Two governors have served nonconsecutive terms
- Four governors have served two consecutive terms
- Two governors have resigned
- "CSG Releases 2013 Governor Salaries". The Council of State Governments. June 25, 2013. Retrieved November 23, 2014.
- About Governor Kevin Stitt, Office of the Governor (accessed May 14, 2013)
- Brown, Kenny L. OKLAHOMA TERRITORY Archived 2011-11-14 at the Wayback Machine, Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture Archived 2010-05-31 at the Wayback Machine. (accessed May 12, 2013)
- Everett, Dianna. "FRANTZ, FRANK (1872-1941)," Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture Archived 2010-05-31 at the Wayback Machine. (accessed August 12, 2013)
- Savage, Cynthia. "Governor's Mansion," Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture Archived 2010-05-31 at the Wayback Machine (accessed May 16, 2013)
- Course of Bills, Oklahoma House of Representatives (accessed May 14, 2013)
- Executive Budget, Office of State Finance (accessed May 12, 2013)
- "," Digest of State Laws - Updated/Revised Title 63 – July 2007 (accessed April 19, 2017).