The role of a lieutenant governor in a state is akin to the U.S. vice president: They are generally next in line should a state's governor become unable to serve and, in some cases, they’re tasked with breaking tie votes on bills in the state legislature.
But, just as each state in the U.S. has its own distinct personality, the manner in which each has chosen to govern itself can offer a snapshot into the individual nature of a locality and how it conducts the business of governing.
Beginning this year, , the lieutenant governor in 26 states runs on the same ticket as the governor, just like the ticket of president and vice president for the nation's highest office.
In 17 other states, the lieutenant governor runs separately from the governor, thereby leading to the possibility of having a governor and lieutenant governor representing different political parties, according to Ballotpedia.
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In a handful of states — Arizona, Maine, New Hampshire, Oregon, and Wyoming — the office of lieutenant governor doesn’t exist. That office instead goes to the secretary of state or Senate president. Two states, Tennessee and West Virginia, bestow the title of lieutenant governor onto their Senate presidents. The position in Alabama is currently vacant, and Iowa has an acting lieutenant governor who was appointed last year but has no line of succession to governor’s seat.
The job is often used as a springboard for politicians seeking their state’s highest office, and a number of lieutenant governors have already announced their candidacy for governor in the 2018 midterm elections.
In choosing who are the best among the lieutenant governors in the country, the criteria included those individuals who had used their platform rigorously in order to make a difference on issues important to the citizenry and their states’ futures.
questsin identified the following 10 lieutenant governors for the work they have done and continue to do representing their constituents, attending to the nuts and bolts tasks of governing with the principles of diligent stewardship and integrity.
1. Casey Cagle, R-Georgia — A seventh-generation resident of Hall County, Georgia, Cagle began public service as a member of the state's General Assembly and became the first Republican to hold the office of lieutenant governor in Georgia's history. He emerged from a crowded primary as the top vote-getter but must still survive a runoff against Georgia’s secretary of state for the 2018 Republican gubernatorial nomination.
2. Kathy Hochul, D-New York — In her current position, Hochul chairs 10 regional economic development councils, a workforce investment committee, and a heroin and opioid task force. She has spearheaded a campaign to combat sexual assault on college campuses. Hochul also works on initiatives for the state including a minimum wage increase, paid family leave, ethics reform, and infrastructure investment. Although the lieutenant governor is focusing on running for re-election, there have been many calls (including from Washington, D.C.) for her to run for Congress again as she’s seen as the Democrats’ greatest chance to unseat an incumbent Republican in her deeply red home district.
3. Rebecca Kleefisch, R-Wisconsin — A former TV reporter and wife of a state legislator, Kleefisch, 42, has been the hard-charging No. 2 official behind fellow conservative Republican Gov. Scott Walker. When Walker's successful move to end collective bargaining in the state led to the nationally-watched effort to recall him in 2012, Kleefisch was also the target of a recall effort. Both survived relatively easily. Along with being a swashbuckling conservative on issues from abortion to climate change, Kleefisch was the subject of prayers and good wishes throughout the Badger State as she battled and eventually overcame cancer.
4. Cyrus Habib, D-Washington — America magazine called Habib, the first and only Iranian-American to hold statewide office, “the most interesting Catholic politician in Washington (state).” As lieutenant governor, he serves as the president of the state Senate, which plays a large role in which legislation moves forward in Olympia. He is also tasked with serving as acting governor whenever the elected governor is out of state. He also runs his own office dedicated to issues and services that affect his constituents. Habib was first elected to his position in 2016 apart from the incumbent governor’s ticket.
5. Boyd Rutherford, R-Maryland – Rutherford has a background in state and federal government, but his tenure as lieutenant governor was the first time he ran for elected office. He has worked to make government more effective and said he saw himself as someone who would "make the trains run on time." He is currently working on bringing together an emergency task force to combat heroin and opioid addiction. In fact, Rutherford was invited to speak on the issue at The Aspen Institute, a prestigious nonpartisan, leadership forum.
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6. Byron Mallott, D-Alaska – Mallott was born in Yakutat, the ancestral home of his mother's Tlingit clan, where he still resides today. He began his life of public service at age 22 when he became mayor of Yakutat. He has gone on to serve every Alaska governor since statehood, holding many leadership roles in the public and private sectors. As lieutenant governor, Mallott has focused on critical issues such as stewardship of transboundary waters and climate change. He also has worked to ensure robust elections security, including expanding an Alaska native language outreach campaign. Mallott and Gov. Bill Walker are the first Alaska-born governor and lieutenant governor to serve together.
7. Billy Nungesser, R-Louisiana – The principal function of Louisiana's lieutenant governor is to oversee the state's $11 billion tourism industry. As commissioner of the Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation, and Tourism, Nungesser's role is to preserve, showcase, and market the state's rich cultural heritage in food, music, arts, and history. This includes overseeing the state parks, state library, state museum, and tourism department. In 2017, Nungesser went to France with a 26-member delegation of tourism leaders from New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Lafayette to promote Louisiana as a travel destination.
8. David Zuckerman, P-Vermont – While a throwback to early America as a farmer statesman, Zuckerman is the first member of the Vermont Progressive Party to win statewide office, winning the election after serving in the state House and Senate. During his term and leading of the state Senate, he has placed an emphasis on activating citizens and communities to push the government to make “meaningful progress toward a more just, fair, and beautiful Vermont.”
9. Tate Reeves, R-Mississippi — He has a background in finance and public administration rather than politics. As a bank executive and first time office-seeker, Reeves in 2007 defeated two seasoned politicians to win nomination as state treasurer and then won the general election over the former state director of finance. As treasurer, the inventive Reeves streamlined his office and was named one of 42 "National Rising Stars in the Republican Party" by Rising Tide, the magazine of the RNC. He won the lieutenant governorship in 2011 and is now considered a strong favorite for the governorship in 2019.
10. Mike Cooney, D-Montana – Cooney came into the office of lieutenant governor by appointment following a career in public service that includes serving in the Montana House of Representatives, secretary of state of Montana, and a member and then president of the Montana Senate.
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