Governor of Oklahoma

Governor of Oklahoma
Governor of
the State of Oklahoma
Standard of the Governor of Oklahoma.svg
Flag of the Governor
Mary Fallin

since January 10, 2011
Residence Oklahoma Governor's Mansion
Term length Four years, renewable once
Inaugural holder Charles N. Haskell
Formation November 16, 1907
Website Governor's Website

The Governor of the State of Oklahoma is the head of state for the State of Oklahoma, United States. Under the Oklahoma Constitution, the Governor is also the head of government, serving as the chief executive of the Oklahoma executive branch, of the government of Oklahoma. The Governor is the ex officio Commander-in-Chief of the Oklahoma National Guard when not called into Federal use. Despite being an executive branch official, the Governor also possesses legislative and judicial powers. The Governor's responsibilities include making yearly "State of the State" addresses to the Oklahoma Legislature, submitting the annual State budget, ensuring that state laws are enforced, and that the peace is preserved.

The office was created in 1907 when Oklahoma was officially admitted to the United States as the 46th state. Prior to statehood in 1907, the office was preceded by a Presidential appointed Governor of Oklahoma Territory with similar powers.

The 27th and current Governor of Oklahoma is Mary Fallin.[1]


Creation and history


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Before statehood in 1907, modern day Oklahoma was composed of Oklahoma and Indian Territories. While Indian Territory remained under the semi-independence of the Indian nations, Oklahoma Territory was organized territory under the supervision of the United States Congress. Within the Territory, a tripartite government existed, including a Territorial Assembly, a Territorial Supreme Court, and a Territorial Governor.

The executive branch of the territory’s government was headed by the Governor of Oklahoma Territory. The governor was appointed by the President of the United States to serve a four year term. Despite a set term, the governor served at the pleasure of the President. The President could remove the governor from office at any moment.

The Governor was the head of the Government of the Territory. He had the power to veto legislation proposed by the Territorial Legislature and the power to appoint member to his cabinet, who in turn had to be ratified by the Legislature. The Governor had the power to appoint Justices to the Territory’s Supreme Court. The Governor was responsible to the President on addressing issues in the territory and served as the representative as the federal government of the United States. He was also the Commander in Chief of the Territory’s militia.

After the Oklahoma Constitution was written and accepted in 1907, Oklahoma and Indian Territories was joined as the State of Oklahoma. The office of Territorial Governor was replaced by the Governor of Oklahoma. The new office possessed many of the Territorial Governor’s powers and similar responsibilities. However, the Governor was designed with many restrictions, limits, and Legislative and Judicial oversight. This was done under the “weak governor system” to not allow the abuse of power that had occurred under the Territorial government.

After the first governor Charles N. Haskell left office in 1911, the executive branch saw a vast reduction in its powers. Governor Haskell, considered the father of the Oklahoma Constitution, knew the office inside and out. This allowed him to amass a great deal of executive power and influence over every aspect of state government. However, in the twenty years after Haskell, the Legislature drained the governor of his powers and severely weakened the office. It was not until William H. Murray, another of the Constitution’s authors, in 1935 did the Governorship get back its powers.

As Oklahoma grew and the state government expanded, the Governor became gradually more powerful. As more agencies were introduced, the Governor’s appointment power extended to them all, granting him greater indirect influence over the government. Also, initially the Governor was not eligible to immediately succeed himself after being elected. It was not until 1966 did Oklahomans amend the Constitution to allow the Governor to serve two consecutive terms.

Election to the Governorship

Requirements to hold office

Section Three of Article VI of the Oklahoma Constitution establishes the requirements a person must meet in order to become Governor. The Governor must be a citizen of the United States, be at least 31 years old, and have been resident of Oklahoma for at least ten years.


Gubernatorial elections are held every four years. The Governor of Oklahoma is elected directly by the voters of Oklahoma. After all votes are collected, the Legislature of Oklahoma shall convene in the hall of the House of Representatives and the Speaker of the House of Representatives announce the results of the elections in the presence of a majority of each branch of the Legislature.

The persons having the highest number of votes for the office of the Governor shall be declared duly elected. However, in case two or more shall have an equal and the highest number of votes for the office of Governor, the Legislature shall, by joint ballot, choose one of the said persons having an equal and the highest number of votes for the office of Governor.

Term(s) of office

Under Section Four in Article VI of the Oklahoma Constitution, the Governor serves a four year term in office beginning on the second Monday in January. Also, the same Section provides that no person may hold the office of Governor for more than two terms consecutively. It makes no reference to limits to total number of terms held.

Last election

Oklahoma gubernatorial election 2010 results map.
  Counties won by Mary Fallin
  Counties won by Jari Askins
2010 gubernatorial election, Oklahoma[2]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Republican Mary Fallin 625,506 60.45
Democratic Jari Askins 409,261 39.55
Majority 216,245 20.90
Turnout 1,034,767
Republican gain from Democratic

Relationship with the Lieutenant Governor

The Lieutenant Governor of Oklahoma is elected at the same election as the Governor, but not jointly as the running mate of the gubernatorial candidate. With Lieutenant Governor Todd Lamb in office, Oklahoma has a Governor and a Lieutenant governor of the same party, as both Governor Mary Fallin and Lieutenant Governor Lamb are of the Republican Party.

The event of having a Governor and Lieutenant of different parties has become more frequent ever since Republicans had made gains in state wide elections. Democratic Lieutenant Governor Leo Winters and Republican Governor Henry Bellmon in 1963 was the first instance of this occurrence. Since then this has happened three more times; in 1967 with Republican Governor Dewey F. Bartlett and Democratic Lieutenant Governor George Nigh, in 1987 with Republican Governor Henry Bellmon and Democratic Lieutenant Governor Robert S. Kerr III, and in 2002 with Democratic Governor Brad Henry and Republican Lieutenant Governor Mary Fallin.

When a Governor and Lieutenant Governor are of the same party, the Governor often uses the Lieutenant as the head of board, agency, or commission. This can been seen when Governor Frank Keating appointed Mary Fallin to serve as his Secretary State Small Business Advocate within his Cabinet. However, when the Governor and Lieutenant are of different parties, the Lieutenant's role in the administration is often minimal.

This unique relationship occasionally comes into play when the Lieutenant Governor is the Acting Governor. When acting as the Governor, the Oklahoma Constitution provides all the powers of the Governor to the Lieutenant Governor. This includes the power of signing or vetoing legislation, making political appointments, calling out the Oklahoma National Guard, or granting pardons. The need for the Lieutenant Governor to act as the Governor may come about due to the Governor's absences from the State, or his inability to discharge the powers and duties of the office. The Lieutenant Governor holds the powers of the Governor until the Governor returns to the state or the disability is removed.

Office of the Governor

Office of the Governor
Standard of the Governor of Oklahoma.svg
Agency overview
Formed 1907
Preceding agency Office of the Territorial Governor
Headquarters Oklahoma State Capitol
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Employees 39 unclassified
Annual budget $3.3 million
Minister responsible Mary Fallin, Governor
Agency executive Denise Northrup, Chief of Staff
Office of the Governor

The Office of the Governor is the State agency that support the Governor in the performance of his duties. The Office consists of the immediate staff of the Governor. The Office of the Governor is headed by the Governor's Chief of Staff. The Chief of Staff supervises the operations of the Office and serves as a key adviser to the Governor. The Office often includes communications staff, political affairs staff, legislative affairs staff, Governor's legal staff, gubernatorial appointments staff and policy development staff.


The Office usually employees between 30 and 40 staffer (depending on the budget), all which are political appointees and serve at the pleasure of the Governor. Most of those staffers work at the Governor's official office in the Oklahoma State Capitol in Oklahoma City while a few work at the Governor's Office in Tulsa. An even smaller portion of those employees work at the Governor's Mansion as house staff.


The Governor's Office has an annual budget of over $3 million. Of that budget, the vast majority (80%) is dedicated to employee salaries and benefits. The remaining 20% is split between operating the Governor's Capitol Office, managing the Governor's Tulsa Office and upkeeping of the Governor's Mansion.


Executive Powers

The Governor, according to the Oklahoma Constitution, must "take care that the laws be faithfully executed." The Governor is vested with "supreme executive power" as the state's "Chief Magistrate" and acts as head of the Executive department of Oklahoma, granting him the ability to issue executive orders which are binding throughout the State of Oklahoma. The Governor is the "conservator of the peace throughout the State," making him the chief peace officer in the state. In his position as chief peace officer, the Governor is granted command over all state and local law enforcement agencies. In the event that regular law enforcement is unable to execute the law, the Governor, acting as Commander-in-Chief of Oklahoma’s state militia, may call out the Oklahoma National Guard to "execute the laws, protect the public health, suppress insurrection, and repel invasion." The Governor is assisted in managing the military of Oklahoma by the Adjutant General of Oklahoma, who is appointed by the Governor.

The Governor has the power to commission all officers not otherwise commissioned by the law of Oklahoma and is granted the power of appointment. When any office at the state level becomes vacant for any reason, the Governor, unless otherwise provided by law, has the power to appoint a person to fill such vacancy, who shall continue in office until a successor shall have been elected or appointed according to the law of Oklahoma. If the office of an Oklahoma Member of the United States House of Representatives or United States Senate becomes vacant the Governor calls a special election to fill the remainder of the term. In the case of United States Senators, the Governor is empowered by the U.S. Constitution to appoint someone immediately to fill the vacant Senate seat temporarily until a special election can be held.

Within the Executive branch of Oklahoma government, the Governor is assisted by the Lieutenant Governor of Oklahoma, the Secretary of State of Oklahoma, the Attorney General of Oklahoma, and the State Treasurer of Oklahoma, among others. While all the other high level executive offices are elected directly by the people of Oklahoma, the Secretary of State is not. The Secretary of State is appointed by the Governor with the consent of the Senate for a term of four years to run concurrently with the term of the Governor. Due to the large number of State agencies, the Governor is assisted in running the government through the use of the Oklahoma State Cabinet, which the Governor is allowed to organize to best serve him. Through the State Cabinet, the Governor can address the assembled heads of Oklahoma's executive branch departments which oversee all of Oklahoma's agencies. Each department is headed by a Secretary appointed by the Governor and is responsible for carrying out his executive orders through their department.

The Governor is an ex officio chairman of many state commissions and committees, such as the Oklahoma Commissioners of Land Office and the Oklahoma Ethics Commission. While not a member, the Governor has the power to appoint all or some of the members of most of the executive commissions and state commissions with the advice and consent of the Oklahoma Senate, such as the Board of Regents of the University of Oklahoma.

The Governor is also responsible for preparing the State Budget of Oklahoma for the next fiscal year, although the Legislature must approve it.

Legislative Powers

Like the President of the United States, the Governor plays a major role in the legislative process, even though Legislative power is vested in the Oklahoma Legislature. Every bill which that is passed by both the Oklahoma Senate and Oklahoma House of Representatives, and every resolution requiring the assent of both chambers of the legislature, must, before it becomes a law, be presented to the Governor. The Governor may choose to sign it or veto it and send it back to the legislature. The Governor’s veto can only be overridden by a two-thirds approval vote from each house.

The Governor’s power over appropriation bills is greater than that of normal bills. As with normal bills, it must be presented to the Governor for his approval. If he disapproves of any part of the bill, he may send that part of the bill back to the legislature. However, the part of which he approves becomes law. Thus, the Governor is granted the power of the line-item veto. Any item, or items, so disapproved by the Governor in this manner become void, unless the Legislature re-passes them by a two-thirds vote.

Much of the legislation dealt with by the Legislature is drafted at the initiative of the Governor or his staff. In annual and special messages to the Legislature, the Governor may propose legislation he believes is necessary. The most important of these is the annual State of the State address. Before a joint session of the Legislature, the Governor outlines the status of the state and his legislative proposals for the upcoming year. Also, beyond the official role as Chief Legislature, the Governor is primarily in a position to influence public opinion and thereby to influence the course of legislation in the Legislature.

The Governor has the power to convoke the legislature, or the Senate only, on extraordinary occasions. At extraordinary sessions, no subject shall be acted upon, except such as the Governor may recommend for consideration. When ever a vacancy occurs within the legislature, the Governor shall issue a writ of election to fill such vacancies. In case of a disagreement between the two houses of the legislature, at a regular or special session, the Governor may adjourn them to such time as he shall deem proper, not beyond the day of the next stated meeting of the legislature. He may convoke the Legislature at or adjourn it to another place, when, in his opinion, the public safety or welfare, or the safety or health of the members require it. However, such a change or adjournment shall be concurred in by a two-thirds vote of all the members of each branch of the legislature.

Judicial Powers

The Governor also plays an active role within the judicial branch of Oklahoma government. Oklahoma has a Judicial Nominating Commission consisting of thirteen members that review all potential Justices and Judges of Oklahoma's appellate courts, such as the Oklahoma Supreme Court, and review them to determine if they qualify to hold their respective positions. Of these thirteen members, the Governor appoints six without the consent of the legislature. All of the Governor's appointments serve for a term of six years each; the terms are staggered so that approximately one-third of the appointments become vacant every two years.

In the event of a vacancy upon the Supreme Court or on the Court of Criminal Appeals, the Judicial Nominating Committee shall choose and submit to the Governor and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court three nominees, each of whom has previously notified the Commission in writing that he will serve as a Justice if appointed. Once three potential Justices or Judges are approved by the Judicial Nominating Committee, the Governor appoints one to serve on the Court. If the Governor fails to do appoint a nominee within sixty days, the Chief Justice of Oklahoma shall appoint one of the nominees. After the Justice's or Judge's first six years in office, they must stand for retainment by the people of Oklahoma for another six year term.

The Governor also possess the power to grant commutations, pardons and paroles for all offenses, except cases of impeachment, upon such conditions and with such restrictions and limitations as he may deem proper, subject to such regulations as may be prescribed by law. However, the Governor shall not have the power to grant paroles if a convict has been sentenced to death or sentenced to life imprisonment without parole. In order to grant a pardon to an individual, he must submit the name of the individual to the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board composed of five members, three of which are appointed by the Governor at the beginning of his term in office to serve a term that coincides with his own. After reviewing the applicant for clemency, and a favorable vote from the majority, the Board may empower the Governor to make such acts of clemency as he deems necessary.

The Governor, however, shall have power to grant after conviction, reprieves, or a leave of absence not to exceed sixty days, without the action of the Board. He shall communicate to the Legislature, at each regular session, each case of reprieve, commutation, parole or pardon, granted, stating the name of the convict, the crime of which he was convicted, the date and place of conviction, and the date of commutation, pardon, parole and reprieve

Foreign relations

The Governor, as Oklahoma’s head of state, serves as the chief representative of Oklahoma to the United States and to the world. All deals between Oklahoma and any foreign power (including other US States and the United States) are negotiated by the Governor. This is reflecting the Governor's position as the spokesman for the state and the state’s interests to other state and world leaders. However, the Governor may not make treaties with other nations or other Union states, as this is prevented by the United States Constitution.

In discharging his duty as chief spokesman, the Governor may be required to testify before the United States Congress or meet with the President of the United States to address national issues that may affect the state. Also, it is the Governor’s responsibility to promote Oklahoma’s industries to the world economy as the spokesman for industrial development within the state. Along with those responsibilities comes the role of chief promoter of Oklahoma’s goods and services to foreign consumers.

The Governor also plays a significant role in national politics. As the representative of Oklahoma, the Governor heads, on a state level, the political party that he may belong to. In this position, the Governor serves as the state’s leader in selecting a party candidate to run for the office of President. Additionally, as Oklahoma’s Head of State, the Governor is Oklahoma to rest of the world. The Governor may travel through the country to promote Oklahoma in a general interest or travel abroad to serve as proponent of America’s interests.

Emergency powers

Pursuant to the Oklahoma Emergency Management Act of 2003 and the Catastrophic Health Emergency Powers Act, in the event that a natural or man-made emergency or a catastrophic health emergency occurs or is anticipated in the immediate future, the Governor’s gains several emergency powers to better respond to the emergency and combat the threat. Either the Governor through executive order or the Oklahoma Legislature through concurrent resolution may declare a state of emergency. Once declared, the Governor may exercise his additional emergency powers. At any time, the Governor (through executive order) or the Legislature (through concurrent resolution) may declare an end to the state of emergency and suspend the Governor's emergency powers.

Upon the declaration of an emergency, the Governor is allowed a limited-form of rule by decree. He assumes direct regulatory control over all essential resources of the state. It will then be the responsibility of the Governor to determine the priorities of such resources and allocate them as the Governor may deem necessary. These resources include, but are not limited to, food, manpower, health and health manpower, water, transportation, economic stabilization, electric power, petroleum, gas, and solid fuel, industrial production, construction and housing.

The focus of the Governor's emergency powers is to ensure the security and stability of the state. As such, the Governor gains vast and comprehensive police powers. In discharging those power to enforce all laws, rules and regulations relating to emergency management, the Governor assumes direct operational control of any or all emergency management forces of the state, including the Oklahoma National Guard, state police agencies, state and local health departments, as well as county sheriff's and local police departments. These emergency police powers extend to providing for the evacuation of all or part of the state’s population from any affected or threatened area or areas within the state, regulating the conduct of civilians and the movement of pedestrians and vehicular traffic, and regulating public meetings and gatherings. The Governor is responsible for providing for the care of all those regulated by his orders.

During a state of emergency, the Governor is authorized to utilize the services, equipment, supplies and facilities of all departments, offices and agencies of the state to the maximum extent practicable. All state, county, and local officers and personnel must cooperate with the Governor in emergency management upon his direction. Any state, county, or local official that willful fails to obey any order, rule or regulation issued by the Governor may be removed from office by the Governor. However, before removal, officer must receives the charges against them and have an opportunity to defend themselves. Pending the presentation of charges, the Governor may suspend such officers for a period not to exceed thirty days. Any vacancy resulting from removal or suspension shall be filled by the Governor until it is filled as provided by state law. However, according to the Oklahoma Constitution, the Governor may not remove from office the elective state executive officers, the Justices of the Oklahoma Supreme Court, the Judges of the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals, and members of the Oklahoma Legislature.

When carrying out the functions of his emergency powers, the Governor is immune from civilly liable for any loss or injury resulting from any decision, determination, order or action in the performance of his assigned duties and responsibilities during a stated emergency. However, this immunity does not apply when such loss or injury is caused by the gross negligence, or willfully and unnecessarily act by the Governor.


Since 1928, the Governor of Oklahoma has resided in the Oklahoma Governor's Mansion. Before its construction, Governors lived in various locations around Guthrie and Oklahoma City. Governor Charles N. Haskell set up his administration's office and has official residence within a hotel in Oklahoma City. The Legislature provided for the construction of an official residence after years of debat in 1927. The next year, in 1928, the Mansion was completed.

Built by an Oklahoma City architectural firm, Layton, Hicks and Forsyth, the Mansion is of Dutch-Colonial style. Carthage limestone was used so the exterior of the Mansion would complement the Oklahoma State Capitol, which is located to the west of the Mansion. The legislature allocated $100,000 of state money ($75,000 for construction and $25,000 for furnishing) to the project. Two years later, another $39,000 was set aside to complete outbuildings and landscaping. Though originally having 19 rooms, today the 14,000-square-foot (1,300 m2) Mansion has 12, including a library, parlor, dining room, grand ballroom, kitchen, sunroom and five bedrooms.

The Mansion also serves as an active museum. Throughout the Mansion, antiques and artwork from both museum and private collections can be found. The Mansion's museum is designed to provide a glimpse into Oklahoma's history and culture. Artists represented in oil and bronze include N.C. Wyeth, Charles Marion Russell, Thomas Moran and Albert Beirstadt.


In case of impeachment of the Governor, or of their death, failure to qualify, resignation, removal from the State, or inability to discharge the powers and duties of the office, the office of Governor, with its compensation, shall devolve upon the Lieutenant Governor of Oklahoma for the residue of the term or until the disability shall be removed.

If, during a vacancy of the office of Governor, the Lieutenant Governor shall be impeached, displaced, resign, die or be absent from the State, or become incapable of performing the duties of the office, the President pro tempore of the Oklahoma Senate, shall act as Governor until the vacancy be filled or the disability shall cease; and if the President, Pro Tempore, of the Senate, for any of the above enumerated causes, shall become incapable of performing the duties pertaining to the office of Governor, the Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives shall act as Governor until the vacancy be filled or the disability shall cease.

Emergency interim successor

If, for any reason, the Governor is unable to exercise their powers and discharge the duties of the office and the Lieutenant Governor, President pro tempore of the Senate, and Speaker of the House are unable to act as Governor, then the next official in the line of succession becomes the emergency interim successor. As the emergency interim successor to the Governor, the officer may exercise the powers and discharge the duties of the Governor until a new Governor is elected or until the disability is removed from the Governor or higher official. In no event, however, shall the emergency interim successor serve as Governor.

The authority of an emergency interim successor to the Governor may only act after a man-made or natural emergency or disaster has occurred in the United States. The Oklahoma Legislature, by concurrent resolution, may, at any time, terminate the authority of any emergency interim successor to exercise the powers and discharge the duties of the Governor.

Line of succession

As provided by the Oklahoma Constitution and the Oklahoma Emergency Interim Executive and Judicial Succession Act, the line of succession to the Governorship is as follows:

# Office Current Officer
May succeed to Governorship
Governor of Oklahoma Mary Fallin
1 Lieutenant Governor of Oklahoma Todd Lamb
2 President Pro Tempore of the Senate Brian Bingman
3 Speaker of the House of Representatives Kris Steele
May serve as Emergency Interim Successor
4 State Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones
5 Attorney General Scott Pruitt
6 State Treasurer Ken Miller
7 State School Superintendent Janet Barresi
8 Labor Commissioner Mark Costello
9 Insurance Commissioner John Doak
10 Corporation Commissioner (by length of tenure) Bob Anthony
11 Corporation Commissioner Jeff Cloud
12 Corporation Commissioner Dana Murphy

Oath of office

"I, ........., do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support, obey, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and the Constitution of the State of Oklahoma, and that I will not, knowingly, receive, directly or indirectly, any money or other valuable thing, for the performance or nonperformance of any act or duty pertaining to my office, other than the compensation allowed by law; I further swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully discharge my duties as Governor of the State of Oklahoma to the best of my ability."

Gubernatorial trivia

Age and longevity

Red states indicate US states where future Governors of Oklahoma were born.
Red counties indicate Oklahoma counties where future Governors of Oklahoma were born.

Transition events


See also

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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