Friday, March 09, 2007
Massachusetts gov rated most powerful
By Pamela M. Prah, Stateline.org Staff Writer
Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick doesnt have the
Hollywood celebrity of Californias Arnold
Schwarzenegger or the high profile of New Yorks Eliot
Spitzer, but the newly elected Democrat bested both
better-known colleagues in a yet-to-be-published
ranking of governors powers.
Patrick also edged out his peers in Alaska, Maryland,
New Jersey and West Virginia in the latest power
rankings of state chief executives by University of
North Carolina political science professor Thad L.
Schwarzenegger (R), a former bodybuilder and actor,
and Spitzer (D), who made a name prosecuting unethical
business practices on Wall Street, had
larger-than-life reputations even before they landed
in the governor's mansion, giving them political
influence from the get-go. But other governors are
helped or hurt by their own state constitutions
and laws that influence how much power they wield.
Beyle, who has ranked the governors since the 1980s,
looks at tenure, budget authority, appointment and
veto powers and at whether the governors party
controls the legislature in figuring out which
governors have the most clout.
The last factor helped Massachusetts surpass Alaska,
New Jersey, New York and West Virginia, which all had
been tied for top billing in 2005.
Patricks victory in the 2006 elections gave Democrats
control of both the governorship and statehouse for
the first time in 16 years, and the party has a
veto-proof, overwhelming majority in both chambers.
That was the big difference, Beyle said.
Massachusetts also has no term limits for governors.
Patrick replaced Gov. Mitt Romney (R), who chose not
to run for a second term and is now making a bid for
the White House.
Massachusetts top power billing, however, may come as
small comfort to Patrick, who has been under fire for
a series of political blunders. The missteps include
his use of a $46,000 Cadillac DeVille for state
business and a recent acknowledgment that he made a
phone call on behalf of a mortgage company to a bank
that has substantial dealings with the state.
Maryland and Colorado also boosted their power
rankings with Democratic gubernatorial wins last fall.
In Maryland, former Baltimore Mayor Martin OMalley
(D) unseated Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich, the only
incumbent to lose in last year's mid-term elections.
In Colorado, former Denver District Attorney Bill
Ritter bested his Republican challenger, U.S. Rep. Bob
Beauprez, in a contest to replace Republican Gov. Bill
Owens, who was forced to step down because of term
In both states, Democrats retained control of the
legislatures, giving OMalley and Ritter more friendly
legislatures than their Republican predecessors had.
In Maryland, the governors power to hire and fire
state employees dominated statehouse discussions in
recent years after Democrats accused Ehrlich of firing
340 state workers for partisan reasons after he took
office in 2003. The Democrats interest in the
[issue] seemed to wane after OMalleys election, The
Washington Post reported.
Keon Chi, a senior fellow with the Council of State
Governments, said one reason New Jersey ranks so high
in Beyles study is that the governor is the only
elected top state official. He or she appoints the
secretary of state and the attorney general, positions
that in many other states are filled by elections. New
Jersey currently has no lieutenant governor, although
voters there will elect their first in 2009. The
governor of New Jersey is a bit like the president of
the United States in terms of who he can appoint and
fire at the top levels, Chi said..
Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas (R) with just a two-year term
in office, a Democratic-controlled Legislature and no
line-item veto ranks last in terms of institutional
power, according to Beyles rankings.
New Hampshire, the only other state with a two-year
stint for governor, moved up from the bottom-five
ranking it held in 2005 now that New Hampshire Gov.
John Lynch (D) has a Democratic-controlled statehouse.
The Democrats win in New Hampshire put the party in
control of both the legislative and executive branches
for the first time since just after the Civil War,
giving Lynch more leverage.
Rounding out Beyles list of states where the governor
has little institutional power are Rhode Island,
Alabama, Oklahoma, Indiana, Mississippi and North
In Texas, another state that ranks relatively low on
the list, Gov. Rick Perry (R) has come under fire for
using executive orders to make policy. Perry, for
example, bypassed the Legislature and signed an
executive order requiring that all 6th-grade girls be
vaccinated against a sexually transmitted virus that
causes cervical cancers. Lawmakers are pressing Perry
to reverse the mandate, and a lawsuit has been filed
to block it.
The governors inability to make key appointments is
one of the main reasons the Texas governorship is so
weak. The governors of Arizona, California,
Pennsylvania and Tennessee, for example, can appoint
the top personnel in corrections, education, health,
transportation, public utilities and welfare, a power
the Texas governor lacks.
In another survey, Beyle looks at both the personal as
well as institutional powers of governors, although
those findings are incomplete since the job
performances for governors elected in 2006 are not yet
available. The top five in that list are: Colorado,
Nebraska, Arkansas, Connecticut and New York.
Beyle stresses that while he can calculate the effects
of budget power and other factors, you cant really
measure personal skills. Governors with an assertive
personality and skills in using the bully pulpit can
overcome any limits imposed on them by a states
constitution and laws, he said. Beyles rankings will
be contained in a forthcoming book, Politics in the
American States: A Comparative Analysis, published by
the CQ Press.
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Contact Pamela M. Prah at pprah@...