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Governor of North Carolina
Seal of the Governor of North Carolina.svg
Gubernatorial seal
Governor Roy Cooper with NC Transportation (cropped).jpg
Roy Cooper

since January 1, 2017 (2017-01-01)
Member of Council of State
Residence Executive Mansion
Seat Raleigh, North Carolina
Term length Four years, renewable once consecutively
Inaugural holder Richard Caswell
Formation November 12, 1776
(246 years ago)
Deputy Lieutenant Governor of North Carolina
Salary US$165,750 per year

The governor of North Carolina is the head of government of the U.S. state of North Carolina. The governor directs the executive branch of the government and is the commander in chief of the military forces of the state. The current governor, Democrat Roy Cooper took office on January 1, 2017, and had a public swearing-in ceremony on January 7, 2017.

History of the office

Originally, under the North Carolina Constitution of 1776, the office was very weak, and was elected by the legislature (North Carolina General Assembly) for a one-year term. Edward B. Dudley became the first North Carolina Governor elected by the people on December 31, 1836. Governors served two-year terms from 1836 until a new constitution was adopted in 1868; since then, all governors are elected for four-year terms. Under the 1868 constitution, the governor's executive power was derived from the following provision: "The executive department shall consist of a governor, in whom shall be invested the supreme executive power of the State."

Well into the twentieth century, the North Carolina Constitution made the state's governor one of the weakest in the nation. The new constitution of 1971 stipulated that "The executive power of the State shall be invested in the Governor", making the official unambiguously the chief executive of the state. The constitution also affirmed the governor's role as the director of the state budget, a power originally codified in the Executive Budget Act of 1925.

Until an amendment was added to the state constitution in 1977, North Carolina governors could only serve a single four-year term and could not run for re-election. This amendment strengthened the political authority of the office. After the amendment was passed, in 1980 James B. Hunt became the first governor in state history to be elected to a second term. Governors are still limited to only two consecutive four-year terms, but they may run for further non-consecutive terms. Governor Hunt did just that, winning election to a third and fourth term in 1992 and 1996 after being out of the office for the eight years between 1985 and 1993. The Lieutenant Governor is also limited to two consecutive four-year terms. North Carolina was also the last state in the country to give its governors veto power over legislation; this was not added to the state constitution until a referendum in 1996. While institutional enhancements increased the formal power of the governorship over the course of the 20th century, this was counteracted by a corresponding rise in the legislature's growing willingness to assert its separate desires in state policy.

Much of North Carolina's traditional resistance to strong executive power came from the harsh treatment the state suffered from British governors in the provincial period before the American Revolution. After the state gained its independence from Britain, the state constitution deliberately weakened the executive branch of state government and strengthened the legislative branch. Since the end of Reconstruction in the 1870s the overwhelming majority of the state's governors have been Democrats. The only Republican to be elected governor between 1876 and 1972 was Daniel L. Russell, who served 1897–1901.

As Republican strength grew in North Carolina after 1950, the state's gubernatorial elections became increasingly competitive. In 1972 James Holshouser was elected as the state's first Republican governor of the 20th century. Even so, Republicans have still had difficulty in winning gubernatorial elections in North Carolina, and the office has usually remained in Democratic hands. Beginning in the latter half of the 20th century, Democratic gubernatorial candidates have regularly outperformed their presidential counterparts. Republican gubernatorial candidates have generally attempted to link their efforts with Republican presidential campaigns, while Democratic candidates have usually placed more distance between themselves and their associated presidential contenders. Incumbents tend to win reelection.

The vast majority of people who have been elected Governor of North Carolina have been male, white, Protestant Christian, born and raised in a rural North Carolinian environment, about 50 years of age, politically experienced, attorneys, and college educated. Bev Perdue, elected in 2008, was the first woman to serve as governor of North Carolina.


As with other state officials, only qualified voters in North Carolina are eligible to be elected governor. Unlike most other candidates, who must be at least 21 years of age, any potential governor must be at least 30 years of age. They must also have been a citizen of the United States for at least five years and a resident of North Carolina for at least two years preceding election. The governor is elected in 1972 and every four years thereafter. They serve for a four-year term and until their successor has assumed office. Contested elections for the office of governor are resolved by joint vote of the General Assembly.

The governor's term of office begins on January 1 following their election, but they may not exercise the duties of the office until delivering and undersigning the oath or affirmation of office before a justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court. The oath, which is identical for all state officials, is prescribed by the Article VI Section 7 of the constitution. The governor is limited to serving two consecutive terms in office, with no limits on nonconsecutive terms. In the event the governor-elect fails to qualify for their office, the lieutenant governor-elect becomes governor. The lieutenant governor is elected at the same time as the governor but on their own ticket.

Powers and duties

Executive authority and responsibilities

The Governor of North Carolina is the chief executive of the state and is tasked by the Constitution of North Carolina with faithfully carrying out the laws of the state. The governor is empowered to request agency heads in state government to report to them in writing on subjects relating to executive duties. They are authorized by the constitution to reorganize executive agencies by executive order submitted to the General Assembly, which have "the force of law" unless expressly disapproved by the assembly. They are ex officio commander in chief of the North Carolina National Guard—except when the guard is placed into federal service—and are authorized to call it into service "to execute the law". They are empowered to grant pardons and commutations to convicted criminals and serve as the state's chief representative in intergovernmental matters. They are responsible for reviewing extradition requests from other states and issuing a governor's warrant to detain persons for extradition. The constitution makes the governor the director of the state budget. In this capacity, the governor has the responsibility of monitoring revenue and expenditures to ensure the state maintains a balanced budget and preparing budget recommendations for the General Assembly, which can disregard the proposals in creating the state budget.

The office has extensive powers of appointment of executive branch officials, some judges, and members of boards and commissions. Most executive appointments are not subject to legislative consent and many appointees serve at the pleasure of the governor. Some appointments to major state boards, including the State Board of Education and the North Carolina Utilities Commission, require confirmation from either one or both houses of the General Assembly. Cabinet secretaries are subject to confirmation from the State Senate. The governor is empowered to appoint interim officials to any vacant Council of State offices aside from the Lieutenant Governor of North Carolina without legislative assent pending the next state legislative election. They also may fill vacant judicial offices unless otherwise directed by law. Some appointments to state boards are reserved for other state officials, and the governor's ability to remove officials has been limited by courts.

Legislative authority and responsibilities

The governor is constitutionally obligated to periodically inform the General Assembly on the "state of the State". They are empowered to veto bills of the General Assembly. A veto can be overridden by a three-fifths majority vote of the assembly. The governor may call the General Assembly into extraordinary session after consulting the Council of State and is required to convene the assembly in specific circumstances to review vetoed legislation.

Other duties

North Carolina Executive Mansion, Raleigh, NC (28221585738)
The Executive Mansion (pictured) is the official residence of the governor.

The governor is one of 10 members of the Council of State, a collection of elected state executives. The body has minimal constitutional duties, with its most significant responsibilities arising from statute, including approving the governor's acquisitions and disposals of state property. The governor is tasked by the constitution with keeping the Great Seal of the State North Carolina. The constitution empowers the governor to permit the state or a local government to incur a debt without a referendum in the event of an emergency threat to public health or safety. The governor is constitutionally required to live at the seat of state government. Since 1891, the Executive Mansion in Raleigh has served as the official residence of the governor of North Carolina and their family.

Weaknesses of powers

While North Carolina's governor has stronger appointive abilities than most of their contemporaries around the United States, the office has a lower-than-average amount of institutional power compared to governors in other states. Unlike governors in 43 other states, the North Carolina governor does not have line-item veto power. They are also prohibited from vetoing joint resolutions of the legislature. The separate election of other state executive officials on the Council of State draws authority away from the governorship.

Capacity, removal, and succession

In the event of the governor's absence from North Carolina, or their physical or mental incapacity, the lieutenant governor is tasked with serving as "Acting Governor". In the event of the governor's death, resignation, or removal, the lieutenant governor or whoever next available in the line of succession shall assume the governorship to complete the full term to which the original governor was elected. Constitutionally, physical incapacity can only be determined by the governor themselves; they may write to the North Carolina Attorney General that they are physically incapable of performing their duties. They can resume their duties after informing the attorney general that they are physically capable. The Council of State has the ability by majority vote to call the General Assembly into an extraordinary session to consider the governor's mental capacity. The General Assembly can declare the governor mentally incapable with a two-third majority vote on a joint resolution. The assembly is required to give the governor notice of this consideration and allow them to express their own opinion on their capacity before a vote.

Aside from states of mental or physical incapacity, the only other constitutional reason to remove the governor is their commission of an impeachable offense. In the event that the governor is impeached by the North Carolina House of Representatives, the chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court presides over the court of impeachment. The court is composed of the State Senate, with a majority of its members serving as a quorum. A two-thirds affirmative vote of the senators present constitutes a conviction and thus removal and future disqualification from holding office.

North Carolina's line of gubernatorial succession is by enumerated in Article III, Section 3 of the Constitution of North Carolina and General Statutes Section 147.11.1:

# Office Current officeholder
Governor of North Carolina Roy Cooper (D)
1 Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson (R)
2 President pro tempore of the Senate Philip E. Berger (R)
3 Speaker of the House of Representatives Tim Moore (R)
4 Secretary of State Elaine Marshall (D)
5 Auditor Beth Wood (D)
6 Treasurer Dale Folwell (R)
7 Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt (R)
8 Attorney General Josh Stein (D)
9 Commissioner of Agriculture Steve Troxler (R)
10 Commissioner of Labor Josh Dobson (R)
11 Commissioner of Insurance Mike Causey (R)

Office structure

The governor's office is in the State Capitol. Regional offices are located in New Bern and Asheville to reach local governments and residents in the eastern and western portions of the state, respectively. The Asheville office also oversees management of the governor's western residence. Another office is maintained in Washington D.C. to serve as a liaison between North Carolina's government and the state's congressional delegation and the federal government. As with all Council of State officers, the governor's salary is fixed by the General Assembly and cannot be reduced during their term of office. In 2022, the governor's annual salary was $165,750.

The governor's office employs a senior staff, which assist the governor in their management of the cabinet and offer advice in legislative matters. The governor appoints a legal counsel who advises the governor, their cabinet, and the Council of State. The counsel also provides advice regarding legal policy matters and investigates the merits of pardons and commutations. The Office of State Budget and Management prepares the state budget and advises the governor on budgetary affairs. The Boards and Commissions Office advises the governor on their appointments. The Communications Office employs spokespersons for the governor and prepares press releases, speeches, and public events for them. The Policy Office crafts and considers the governors' main executive and legislative policy goals. The Education Policy Office does the same with a focus on educational matters. The Office of Constituent Services fields citizen inquires and correspondence. The Office of Citizen and Faith Outreach handles matters concerning minority groups and religion. The Legislative Affairs Office acts as a liaison between the governor and the General Assembly and reports on the progression of legislation. The Governmental Relations Office serves as a liaison between the state government, local governments, and the federal government.


As of February 2022, there are five living former N.C. governors. The most recent former governor to die was James Holshouser (1934–2013), on June 17, 2013. The living former governors, in order of service, are:


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