Governors and State Legislatures

Public opinion regarding Congress has reached a dismal low, with more than 80 percent of those surveyed in 2014 saying they do not feel most members of Congress deserve to be reelected.Lindsey Cook, “Americans Still Hate Congress,” U.S. News and World Report, 18 August 2014. This attitude stems from partisan rivalry, media coverage that has capitalized on the conflict, fiscal shutdowns, and the general perception that Congress is no longer engaged in lawmaking.

The picture looks quite different at the subnational level, at least where lawmaking is concerned. State representatives and senators have been actively engaged in the lawmaking function, grabbing national attention at times for their controversial and highly partisan policies. Governors have been active in promoting their own policy agendas, either in cooperation with the state legislature or in opposition to it. Among the early 2016 Republican presidential contenders, nine were current or former state governors.Wilson Andrews, Alicia Parlapiano, and Karen Yourish, “Who is Running for President?” New York Times, 4 March 2016. Increasingly, governors are using their office and the policies they have signed into law as a platform to gain national attention and to give voters a sense of their priorities should they ascend to the highest office in the country, the presidency.