The Lieutenant Governor is a constitutional officer of the Commonwealth of Virginia. The Lieutenant Governor is elected every four years along with the Governor and Attorney General. The office is currently held by DemocratRalph Northam. The governor and lieutenant governor are elected separately and thus may be of different political parties. The lieutenant governor's office is located in the Oliver Hill Building on Capitol Square in Richmond, Virginia. The lieutenant governor serves as the President of the Senate of Virginia and is first in the line of succession to the governor; in the event the governor dies, resigns, or otherwise leaves office, the lieutenant governor becomes governor. Unlike the governor, the Lieutenant Governor of Virginia can run for re-election.
Since the late 1920s, the lieutenant governor has been one of only three positions that competes in a statewide election in Virginia (along with the governor and attorney general). Since the governor cannot succeed himself, whoever is elected lieutenant governor is almost always considered a leading candidate for governor. This is especially the case if the lieutenant governor and the attorney general come from different parties. For example, after DemocratTim Kaine was elected lieutenant governor and Republican Jerry Kilgore was elected attorney general in 2001, it was virtually taken for granted that they would face each other in the 2005 election.
The office of Lieutenant Governor is of colonial origin and can be traced to the Virginia Council of London. The Council was appointed by the King, and in turn, the Council appointed the Lieutenant Governor or deputy. When the English crown forbade colonial Governor's absence from the colonies without leave in 1680, it became the Council’s duty to designate or send a deputy who could exercise all the powers of the Governor under the written instructions of both the crown and the Governor. Virginia’s first Constitution, adopted in 1776, provided a Council of State from which a President was annually selected from its members. The President acted as Lieutenant Governor in the case of the death, inability, or necessary absence of the Governor from the government. The Virginia Constitution of 1851 abolished the Governor’s Council of State and provided for the popular election of the Lieutenant Governor. Shelton Farrar Leake, from Albemarle County, was the first elected Lieutenant Governor, serving from 1852 to 1856.
Constitutionally, the Lieutenant Governor is president of the Senate of Virginia, as is the case with many other lieutenant governors in the United States. Unlike most of his counterparts, however, the lieutenant governor usually presides over the chamber.
As of August 2014[update], six former lieutenant governors were alive, the oldest being Douglas Wilder (1986–1990, born 1931). The most recent death of a former lieutenant governor was that of Richard J. Davis, Jr. (1982–1986), on March 4, 1999. He is also the most recently serving lieutenant governor to die.