Being Lt. Governor: Not Worth A Bucket Of Warm………?

In the wake of David Dewhurst’s defeat in Texas, Aaron Blake notes that being Lt. Governor doesn’t mean very much anymore:

A famous politician once mused that the vice presidency wasn’t worth a “warm bucket of piss.” And we’re sure Selina Meyer agrees.

Being lieutenant governor, though, is worth even less. And rarely has that been more true than these days.


While being lieutenant governor is supposed to be a stepping stone to bigger things, it rarely is. According to a recent study by Governing magazine, lieutenant governors have a dismal record — 17-38 — over the last two decades when it comes to running for governor in their own right. There are six former lieutenant governors in the Senate, but two of them were appointed — Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and John Walsh (D-Mont.) — and only one — Jim Risch (R-Idaho) — jumped straight from that job to the Senate. (He was also, notably, a former care-taker governor.)

Blake’s numbers don’t account for the actual political power that Lt. Governors may have, of course.

In some states, that amounts to far more than merely breaking ties in the State Senate. Indeed, the Texas Lt. Governor is arguably one of the most politically powerful in the country. Despite this, though, it has not traditionally been a stepping stone to the Governor’s office. Since 1951, only one Lt. Governor has succeeded to the Governor’s office via election. Rick Perry, of course, was Lt. Governor under George W. Bush and remained in the Governor’s office through three elections, but he had the benefit of being the incumbent Governor the first time he ran for the office rather than running for the office while still Lt. Governor. This year, Dewhurst decided to run for re-election as Lt. Governor in deference to Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who ran unopposed for the GOP nomination. Attorneys General becoming Governor, or at least their party’s nominee for Governor, has also become common in Virginia in recent decades. Lt. Governor’s seem to slip into the background, although one former Virginia Lt. Governor, Don Beyer, appears likely to win the Democratic nomination to Congress in Virginia’s 8th Congressional District next month. In New Jersey, which didn’t have a Lt. Governor at all until the 2009 election, there are so few duties assigned to the position by the State Constitution that provision was made for the person holding the position to also hold a position in the Governor’s cabinet. The current Lt. Governor, Kim Guadango, currently also serves as Secretary of State.

Generally, though, Lt. Governors are even more forgettable than Vice-Presidents. So if the Vice-Presidency isn’t worth a bucket of warm piss, what does that say about the office of Lt. Governor?

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. PD Shaw says:

    From story:

    Illinois: Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon (D) announced very early in 2013 that she would not seek reelection alongside unpopular Gov. Pat Quinn (D) this year.

    Boring. Simon is completing her term. In 1998, Lt. Gov. Bob Kustra walked out on the job in order to become President of EKU (*). Later, after Gov. Blagojevich was impeached, the Lt. Gov. position remained vacant for two years, as there is no rule for replacement.

    (*) Eastern Kentucky University

  2. RGardner says:

    I actually know who my Lt Gov is (Brad Owen – WA). He’s been there for years (1997) in a figurehead job. He opens shopping centers and does charity work. Oddly his Wikipedia article omits his quasi-legal award (honorary) of a Knight of Lesotho for his charity work in Africa, but does mention his Spanish Knighthood.

  3. SKI says:

    Here in Maryland, the current 2-term Lt Gov. is about to get the nod as the Democratic nominee for Governor (holds a 20 point lead over the current AG) and in a state with a 2:1 registration advantage and a crew of no-names running for the Republican nomination, is almost certain to be the next Gov.