Lt. Governor – What do they do?

Lieutenant Governor of California

The Lieutenant Governor of California is a statewide constitutional officer elected separately from the Governor who serves as the “vice-executive” of California. The Lieutenant Governor of California is elected to serve a four year term and can serve a maximum of two terms. In addition to basically ceremonial roles, serving as Acting Governor in the absence of the Governor, and as President of the California State Senate, the Lieutenant Governor either sits on, or appoints representatives to, many of California’s regulatory commissions and executive agencies. California has had 49 Lieutenant Governors and five Acting Lieutenant Governors since achieving statehood in 1850.


The Lieutenant Governor sits on the UC Board of Regents, CSU Board of Trustees, Ocean Protection Council, the California Emergency Council, and the State Lands Commission. The Lieutenant Governor of California chairs the Commission for Economic Development which is responsible for fostering economic growth in California by developing and implementing strategies for attracting new business to the state, increasing state exports, creating new jobs, and stimulating industries statewide.

Many California projects created through gubernatorial executive orders, or through the initiative process, include a role for the Lieutenant Governor. For example, the Lieutenant Governor serves on the Agriculture-Water Transition Task Force (created by Governor Gray Davis), and five of the twenty-nine members of the oversight committee of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine are appointed by the Lieutenant Governor

The Lieutenant Governor of California is elected at the same election, but not jointly as the running mate of the gubernatorial candidate. California has had a governor and a lieutenant governor of different parties 23 of the past 28 years (as of 2006), as has been the case since 2003 with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (Republican) and former Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi (Democrat) and former Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante (Democrat), from 1991-1999 with Governor Peter B. Wilson (Republican) and Lieutenant Governor Gray Davis (Democrat), from 1983-1991 with Governor George Deukmejian (Republican) and Lieutenant Governor Leo T. McCarthy (Democrat), and from 1979-1983 with Governor Jerry Brown (Democrat) and Lieutenant Governor Mike Curb (Republican).  Gavin Newsom’s election as Lt. Governor breaks this 23 year cycle as Brown and Newsom are both Democrats.

The California Constitution provides that all the powers of the governor fall to the lieutenant governor whenever the governor is not in the State of California, with the lieutenant governor often signing or vetoing legislation, or making political appointments, whenever the governor leaves the state.

The lieutenant governor is also the president of the California State Senate. In practice, there is a gentlemen’s agreement for the Lieutenant Governor not to perform more than perfunctory duties while the Governor is away from the state. This agreement was violated when Mike Curb was in office, as he signed several executive orders at odds with the Brown administration when Brown was out of the state. Court rulings have upheld the lieutenant governor’s right to perform the duties of governor while out of the state.