California’s Lieutenant Governor, October 1974-January 1975: John Harmer’s Brief Stay


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With the departure of Ed Reinecke as California’s lieutenant governor, Governor Ronald Reagan was, for the second time during his term, facing the prospect of appointing yet another second-in-command. This time, though, it was an entirely different situation than the one facing Reagan in January of 1969 during his first term in office.

Now, Reagan was a lame-duck, with about 90 days left on both his term and that of the lieutenant governor’s. So, he was confronted with two options as he pondered whom to appoint. He could name a caretaker to the office, someone who would respectfully manage the office, serve quietly on the 15 or so boards and commissions that came along with the job, and hand over the reigns to a successor in January of 1975. Or, he could designate someone whom, if appointed, could possibly move the GOP forward politically in the November, 1974 election. From the comments that Reagan made when he announced his decision, it appears as if he was to some degree torn about the choice.

When he announced his selection, Reagan stated that he “gave up” on the idea of a caretaker lieutenant governor serving for 90 days (Bergholz, 1974), which indicates that he appeared to have at least given it some serious thought. But, after weighing the possibilities, and being at his core a loyal Republican who wanted to see his party succeed at the polls in November despite the enormous trouble generated by the Watergate scandal, Reagan appointed the person who he felt could best make this occur.

And, who was his choice? None other than the 1974 GOP nominee for the office, State Senator John Harmer of Glendale. Harmer was only 40 years old and was considered one of the most conservative members of California’s upper house. And, Harmer acknowledged that he was taking a huge political risk in giving up a safe seat in the middle of his term for a position that might well only last until January 3, 1975 (Skelton, 1974).

Harmer wasted no time in being sworn in, taking office on October 5, 1975, and barely a week later, in his capacity as both Acting Governor and Chair of the California Economic Development Commission, hosted a statewide summit meeting to discuss inflation. Harmer defended his actions, indicating that he was acting on direction from Reagan, who was in turn responding to President Gerald Ford’s recent national address about the issue. And, he indicated that there would be a follow-up statewide inflation discussion on October 30, 1974, via the California Energy Council, another body over which Harmer presided (Gillam 1974).

With the November election looming, Harmer attempted to do as much as he could via official channels to boost his candidacy.  In addition to receiving publicity for serving as Acting Governor in Reagan’s absence and hosting discussions about critical issues, Harmer also was named by Reagan on October 30, 1974 to coordinate a federal jobs effort, a role that had also been coordinated by his predecessor in office, Ed Reinecke (Los Angeles Times 1974).  However, Reagan and Harmer’s efforts to boost his candidacy for a full term in his own right were for naught, with Democratic nominee State Senator Mervyn Dymally edging Harmer by about 3 percentage points on Election Day.

Perhaps if there had not been so much foot-dragging by influential GOP leaders such as Reagan, Attorney General Evelle Younger, and party gubernatorial nominee Controller Houston Flournoy during the time it took to extricate Reinecke from office, Harmer might have succeeded in winning the job outright; after all, even though his title as Lieutenant Governor did not make it to the ballots (which had already been printed) he lost by only a very narrow margin to Senator Dymally. Reagan’s decision to appoint the GOP nominee for the job as the new second-in-command, rather than an office caretaker, is understandable as well, knowing Reagan’s loyalty to the Republican Party.

When he made the Harmer appointment, Reagan may have considered the events of 1970, when he was faced with a similar decision to fill a vacancy, then in the office of California Secretary of State, when the incumbent GOP officeholder, Frank Jordan, passed away. At that time Reagan appointed a caretaker, H.P. Sullivan, who indeed dutifully served out the 9 or so months remaining on Jordan’s term, but he saw the office taken by Democrat Edmund G. Brown, Jr. in the 1970 general election. He may have wanted to avoid, if he could, a similar scenario from occurring with the lieutenant governor’s post. In the end, John Harmer’s 90 days or so in office were a unique footnote in California political history, and led to no greater electoral success for him.


Bergholz, Richard. “Reagan Will Name Harmer Today to Replace Reinecke. ” Los Angeles Times, October 3, 1974, A1.

Gillam, Jerry. “Harmer Calls Summit Talk on Inflation.” Los Angeles Times, October 12, 1974, pg. 23.

Los Angeles Times. “Harmer to Coordinate Job Program in State.” Los Angeles Times, October 30, 1974, C5.

Skelton, George. “Reagan Names Harmer, Stirs Race for No. 2 Job.” Los Angeles Times, October 4, 1974, A3.


California’s Lt. Governor, July 1974-October 1974: Reinecke’s Long Goodbye


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In July of 1974, incumbent Lieutenant Governor Ed Reinecke was found guilty on one felony count of  perjury stemming from his involvement in the ITT Scandal. All indications were that, having been convicted of a felony, Reinecke would resign from office rather quickly. But, even though the California Government Code indicated that conviction of a felony disqualified state elected officials from holding office, state Attorney General Evelle Younger clouded the matter, indicating that it was only upon sentencing–after the appeals process had been exhausted–that Reinecke would be disqualified; and for his part, Reinecke didn’t appear to be in a hurry to depart (Jones 1974). Thus began a 2-month resignation drama.

At first, fellow Republicans seemed reticent to criticize him at all. Younger appeared to be trying to find a legal avenue for Reinecke to stay in office until his term expired in January of 1975, and GOP gubernatorial nominee, State Controller Houston Flournoy, declined to call for Reinecke’s resignation, and even appeared to feel sorry for Reinecke (Fairbanks 1974). Indeed, the most important GOP leader in the state, Governor Ronald Reagan, had said nothing publicly about the matter since Reinecke’s conviction.

Finally, nearly a week after the conviction, Younger released a report stating that only when sentenced would the state Government Code section disqualifying Reinecke from office kick in, but he suggested that the lieutenant governor should resign immediately (Endicott 1974). The very next day, Reagan finally spoke out about the issue, indicating he felt Reinecke should resign immediately, and that he would tell the lieutenant governor exactly that in a face-to-face meeting the next week, and was reviewing his short-term schedule to avoid leaving the state; again, Reinecke abjectly refused to leave, even with Reagan’s admonishment (Bergholz 1974).

Then, abruptly, Reagan apparently couldn’t tell Reinecke to quit in their face-to-face meeting, and stopped discussing the matter publicly (Fairbanks and Skelton 1974). For his part, Reinecke resumed his duties as the appeal process kicked off, even serving as Acting Governor several times, despite what Reagan had indicated (UPI 1974). Finally, on October 2, 1974, Reinecke submitted his resignation, which took effect at the same time he was receiving his sentence for the perjury conviction, having finally exhausted his available appeals. The next step in the process was for Reagan to name another lieutenant governor–the third in his tenure–to serve until January of 1975 (UPI 1974).

In hindsight, it is abundantly clear that GOP leadership in California should have early and forcefully called for Reinecke’s resignation, as the state Government Code was clear in its language about the disqualification of those state officeholders convicted of a felony. Attorney General Younger and Houston Flournoy, as both the state controller and the GOP gubernatorial nominee both played key roles–which they rejected–to potentially force the matter early on. However, Governor Reagan’s initial forceful public comments about Reinecke, juxtaposed with his apparently timid encounter with the lieutenant governor and subsequent hands-off approach to the dilemma, are especially open for criticism. Reagan, throughout his term in Sacramento, displayed outrage and no patience at student protesters who flagrantly violated the law. But, when it came to a fellow Republican officeholder who stayed on despite being convicted by a federal jury, apparently couldn’t bring himself to remain consistent in his zero tolerance for lawbreakers policy.


Bergholz, Richard. “Reinecke Should Quit, Reagan Says; Suggestion Rejected.” Los Angeles Times, August 3, 1974, A1.

Endicott, William. “Reinecke Should Leave Office Immediately, Younger Suggests.” Los Angeles Times. August 2, 1974, A1.

Fairbanks, Robert. “Flournoy Declines Judgement on Reinecke Staying in Office.” Los Angeles Times. July 31, 1974, A3.

Fairbanks, Robert, and Skelton, George. “Reagan Withdrew Resignation Call, Reinecke Reports.” Los Angeles Times. August 6, 1974, A3.

Jones, Jack. “Reinecke Says He Won’t Quit Unless Forced to by Law.” Los Angeles Times. July 30, 1974, A1.

United Press International. “Reagan Flies to Maryland Picnic.” Los Angeles Times. August 24, 1974, A12.

United Press International. “Reagan Names Sen. Harmer to Serve Rest of Reinecke’s Term.” Los Angeles Times, October 3, 1974, A3.

California’s Lieutenant Governor: Running For Governor


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Gavin Newsom, the current Lieutenant Governor of California, recently announced that he will be running for the top job of Governor in 2018. But, history shows us that since 1939, when most of the powers of the second-highest office in the state were removed, the odds of them being elected to govern it are quite small. Since then, only one lieutenant governor–Gray Davis, in 1998–has been elected to the top spot.

It’s not that others haven’t tried. In 1982, incumbent LG Mike Curb ran for governor against Attorney General George Deukmejian, but was defeated in the primary election. And, in 2003, then-LG Cruz Bustamante ran in the recall election of Governor Davis, but lost. So, the road is certainly steep–but not impossible–for Mr. Newsom.

Lt. Governor Ed Reinecke and Governor Ronald Reagan, 1969-1972


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Publisher’s Note: I have broken down this assessment of the relationship between the final two of three Lieutenant Governors who served under Governor Ronald Reagan into three parts. The first part, discussed below, covers their relations and activities by Lt. Governor Ed Reinecke between January of 1969, when he assumed office, through January of 1972.

The second part will assess the state of their relationship and Reinecke’s work between January of 1972 and the federal trial that resulted in his conviction in 1974. The third part will discuss the period of time between Reinecke’s conviction, his departure from the office of Lieutenant Governor, and the appointment and brief tenure of his successor, John Harmer, between October of 1974 and January of 1975.

With the departure of Bob Finch in early 1969 to serve as Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare under President Nixon, California Governor Ronald Reagan was given a rare opportunity to appoint a lieutenant governor that was more aligned with his thinking. Indeed, after the clashes that marked his relationship with Lieutenant Governor Finch, Reagan would not have appointed anyone who did not clearly support his vision of state government. And, he found the Perfect Lieutenant Governor in Congressman Ed Reinecke of the San Fernando Valley. As time wore on, though, Reinecke, who clearly was positioning himself as Reagan’s successor, found himself increasingly isolated and without Reagan’s support in the 1974 California gubernatorial primary.

When he appointed Congressman Reinecke as his second-in-command in January of 1969, Reagan indicated that he and Reinecke agreed fully “…upon the goals and aims of the Creative Society” (Goff 1969), the Governor’s name for his state political vision. And, from all appearances, Reinecke’s credentials, including an electrical engineering degree from Caltech and several years representing a staunchly conservative House district in the east San Fernando Valley (Los Angeles Times, 1969), seemed to buttress those claims.

After his appointment, Reinecke for the most part disappeared from the headlines throughout 1969 and 1970, with the only item of his that made news for the duration of 1969 being his appointment by Reagan to head a multi-agency effort analyzing the California coastline (Gillam, 1969). In 1970, Reinecke briefly made the headlines statewide when he suggested that the press voluntarily refrain from reporting episodes of student unrest at California colleges and universities, an idea seconded by Governor Reagan (Greenburg, 1970). Having a lieutenant governor who  made the news very rarely most likely was quite a relief to Reagan and his staff, who clearly appeared frustrated at times with Finch and his legitimate desire to get the attention of the media and forward his own agenda. In Reinecke, one gets the sense that his agenda was simply to serve as a loyal deputy to the Governor, hoping that it would pay political dividends down the road.

After being elected in his own right to the office of Lieutenant Governor in 1970, Reinecke began to assume more formal authority within the Reagan Administration and to appear more and more in the media spotlight, as he prepared–along with others in state office–to run for Governor when Reagan stepped down in 1974.  Reagan kicked off his second term in office by assigning Reinecke formal jurisdiction over intergovernmental relations, Model Cities affairs, management services, and environmental policy (California Journal, 1971). In addition, Reinecke was named by Reagan to administer the state Department of Commerce (California Journal, 1971).

In March of 1971, Reinecke garnered headlines via his position on the State lands Commission, he demanded a private-sector audit of state tidelands revenue used  by the city of Long Beach to help purchase the legendary cruise ship Queen Mary that had since been turned into a stationary floating museum (Los Angeles Times, 1971). It is worth noting that Republican State Senator George Deukmejian, who was known to covet higher office statewide, represented Long Beach in California’s upper house, and this may have been an effort by Reinecke to both harm Deukmejian’s chances for the gubernatorial nomination in 1974, and promote his own credentials. Reinecke continued this effort to prove his conservative bona fides later in the year, when as acting governor he criticized teachers at the University of California for having what he considered to be extremely light teaching loads (Trombley, 1971).

Throughout the year, Reinecke also garnered headlines via work he was assigned by Reagan to carry out, or took on himself. He spearheaded the effort to assist jobless California aerospace workers by successfully lobbying the federal government to fund an unemployment assistance center dedicated to their industry (Jones, 1971).  In addition, Reinecke was appointed by Governor Reagan to lead the state’s effort to obtain federal contracts to build the new Space Shuttle (Foley, 1971).  All of the work that he conducted during this time was putting him in contact with national Republican Party officials, which is when he also began leading an effort to land the 1972 Republican National Convention in San Diego, something that was little-noticed at the time, but would ultimately embroil him in the Watergate scandal and doom his chance to become Governor.

The final significant activity that Reinecke participated in during this period of time occurred at the tail end of 1971 and into January of 1972, during a fight between Reagan and the Legislature over who would get the ability to craft the maps that apportioned legislative districts throughout the state, an activity that occurs every decade after the census is conducted. At the time, a little-known and apparently never-used group, the California Reapportionment Commission, still existed in California government. The body, founded in 1926, was allowed to intervene in reapportionment disputes and consisted of the Lieutenant Governor and several state constitutional officers–all of whom, fortuitously, happened to be a majority Republican (Fairbanks, 1971). Thus, Reinecke announced his intention to revive this commission, and actually convened one or two meetings of the group to discuss the matter and plan next steps before the state supreme court stepped in and ruled in January of 1972, much to his displeasure, that the commission was unconstitutional (Goff, 1972).


California Journal. “The Lieutenant Governor and His Office.” January, 1971, Page 4.

California Journal. “Interview: Lieutenant Governor Ed Reinecke.” January, 1971, Page 7.

Fairbanks, Robert. “Special Commission to Work on Redistricting.” Los Angeles Times, December 9, 1971, E23.

Foley, William J. “State Has Good Chance to Get Shuttle Sites, Reinecke Says.” Los Angeles Times, August 17, 1971, A3.

Gillam, Jerry. “Reagan Asks Overhaul for State Government; Plan Would Scrap Equalization, Franchise Tax Boards,31 Other Agencies, Commissions.” Los Angeles Times, March 6, 1969, A3.

Goff, Tom. “Reagan Announces Reinecke’s Appointment to Succeed Finch.” Los Angeles Times, January 9, 1969, A3.

Goff, Tom. “Reagan, Reinecke, Denounce Court; Legislative Leaders Praise Action.” Los Angeles Times, January 19, 1972, A14.

Greenburg, Carl. “Governor Defends Reinecke Proposal on Violence News.” Los Angeles Times, June 13, 1970, A1.

Jones, Jack. “State to Open Center for Aerospace Jobless.” Los Angeles Times, July 30, 1971, A1.

Los Angeles Times. “Reagan May Select Congressman to Fill Finch’s State Job.” January 8, 1969, A3.

Los Angeles Times. “Reinecke Urges Private Audit on Queen Mary; Cites Waste of Money on Huge Project; State Lands Commission to Study Request.” March 26, 1971, A1.

Los Angeles Times. “San Diego Plans $1.5 Mil for GOP Parley; State Officials Confident of Acceptance for National Convention.” June 30, 1971, pp. 3.

Trombley, William. “UC Teaching Load Hit as Too Light.” Los Angeles Times, October 16, 1971, A1.

Lieutenant Governor Robert Finch and Governor Ronald Reagan, 1967-1969


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The relationship between California Lieutenant Governor Robert Finch and Governor Ronald Reagan can best be described as strained. There were a couple of reasons for the difficult relations between the two. First, Finch hailed from the more moderate wing of the Republican Party, and had toiled on behalf of GOP elected officials and causes for many years. Reagan, meanwhile, represented the avant-garde of the Republican Party, the much more conservative folks who had been shaken from their slumber during Barry Goldwater’s presidential campaign of 1964.

Second, Finch out-polled Reagan statewide during the 1966 election, which, while little-noticed by the national media in the aftermath of Reagan’s defeat of incumbent Governor Pat Brown, was a point of influence for Finch. In a post-election spirit of unity, Governor-elect Reagan sought to immediately include Finch as part of his team by naming him to head up welfare reform efforts in California state government (Associated Press, 1966). Likewise, Finch, in at attempt to reach out to GOP conservatives, announced his intention to propose an anti-pornography bill (Associated Press, 1966). But, as time went on, Finch began to carve his own path in state government and openly oppose Reagan on public policy matters.

First, in early 1967, the Lieutenant Governor on his own initiative proposed the formation of three new legislative committees (Zeman, 1967). Then, Finch announced that he opposed the budget cuts to California’s higher education system that had been proposed by Reagan, and indicated he was trying to negotiate a compromise between Reagan and those on the UC regents and the trustees of the state college system who opposed the reductions (Trombley, 1967). Finch further distanced himself from Reagan’s political perspective by declaring that capital punishment in California should be applied in a much narrower fashion (Los Angeles Times, 1967).

Perhaps in response to Finch’s decision to carve his own political path away from Reagan’s, the Governor publicly proposed–all the while effusively praising Finch–that the Governor and Lieutenant Governor should be elected as a ticket (Lembke, 1967).  It is apparent that the two were at odds, and a breaking point may have been inevitable. Indeed, that rupture occurred in August of 1967 when Finch, at a joint press conference with Assembly Speaker Jesse Unruh, unveiled a joint Republican-Democratic anti-poverty proposal. However, Reagan claimed he was adamantly opposed to such a plan and was furious at Finch for appearing in public with the presumed 1970 Democratic contender for Governor against him (Los Angeles Times, 1967). That was the low public point of the relationship between the two, as the remainder of 1967 saw no public animosity between them, though Finch in an interview towards the end of the year made no apologies for his willingness to speak out (Zeman, 1967).

Public sparring between Finch and Reagan subsided in 1968, but this author suspects that relations may have not have been very cozy, simply due to Reagan’s favorite-son bid for the 1968 GOP presidential nomination, and Finch’s key role as an operative for Richard Nixon. After Nixon secured the GOP presidential nod, rumors began to spread that Finch would depart Sacramento for Washington in order to serve Nixon in some capacity, and Finch was indeed appointed by Nixon to serve as Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare.

The animosity that was apparent in the relationship between Robert Finch and Ronald Reagan highlights a critical problem in states that choose to elect a stand-alone Lieutenant Governor: the possibility of different perspectives on policy issues, which can hamper the implementation of a Governor’s political and policy objectives. While divergent at times, the relationship between Finch and Reagan would not reach the depths seen in the future, and Reagan would see to it that Finch’s successor would be very loyal to him and his aims.


Associated Press (1966, November 17). Reagan Says He Will Consult People on Curing State’s Ills. Los Angeles Times, pp. 3.

Associated Press (1966, November 18). Finch Will Propose Anti-Smut Measure to New Legislature. Los Angeles Times, pp. 2.

Lembke, Daryl (1967, July 14). Reagan Asks Change in State Election System. Los Angeles Times, pp. 30.

Los Angeles Times (1967, April 13). Finch Declares Death Penalty is Used Too Broadly by State. Los Angeles Times, pp. 3.

Los Angeles Times (1967, August 3). Monaghan Supports Finch in Disclosure of Poverty Plans. Los Angeles Times, pp. 3.

Trombley, William (1967, February 28). Finch Opposes College Across-Board Slashes. Los Angeles Times, pp. 3.

Zeman, R. (1967, January 28). Finch Calls for New Legislative Committees. Los Angeles Times, pp. 2.

Zeman, Ray (1967, October 12). A Busy Man-Robert Finch. Los Angeles Times, pp. C4.


Lieutenant Governor Glenn Anderson and Governor Pat Brown: 1959-1967


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Publisher’s Note: This is the first post in a series dedicated to assessing the relationship between California’s Lieutenant Governors and the Governors whom they served under, from 1959 until 2014.

A casual glance at the relationship between Lieutenant Governor Glenn Anderson and Governor Edmund G. “Pat” Brown shows a spirit of cooperation between the two, with Brown delegating tasks to Anderson, and the Lieutenant Governor studiously avoiding any appearance of conflict with Brown’s legislative agenda. However, a more nuanced study of their relationship over time appears to show Governor Brown displaying growing unease with Anderson as his deputy, especially after the Watts Riot and Anderson’s role in that event became public fodder.

In the early years of their service together, Brown designated the Lieutenant Governor as an official member of his cabinet, and in 1963 appointed him to serve as coordinator with local government. Later in 1963, during an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Anderson indicated his primary task was assisting with “…helping to sell the Governor’s program,” and he expressed no desire to publicly criticize Brown. Interestingly, Anderson also expressed during that interview a strong reluctance to the possibility of carrying out one of the mandated duties of the Lieutenant Governor, that of casting a tie-breaking vote in the State Senate if called upon to do so (9/1/63, G2).

However, beginning with the 1962 Democratic primary, signs begin to show that Brown may have not completely supported Anderson. During the 1962 primary, Anderson found himself with an opponent, none other than the incumbent District Attorney of Los Angeles County, William B. McKesson. Could Governor Brown have stepped in and dissuaded McKesson from running against Anderson? Quite possibly, but that does not appear to have occurred; Anderson survived the primary, and went on to be re-elected in November for a second term along with Brown.

Beginning in 1965, Brown again began appearing in news items related to potential opponents to Anderson. In February, 1965, Brown denied reports that he had decided to support Assembly Speaker Jess Unruh over Anderson for the post in 1966, and again reiterated his support for the incumbent Lieutenant Governor. And, in the aftermath of the 1965 Watts Riot, as Anderson’s role in summoning the National Guard to Los Angeles was debated, those news items began to appear more frequently, and Brown’s support appeared more tepid.

As Acting Governor during Governor Brown’s trip to Greece in August of 1965, Anderson was in charge when the Watts Riot broke out. The Lieutenant Governor appears to have delayed by several hours issuing an order for the National Guard to be called out to the streets of Los Angeles. In early December, 1965, the McCone Commission, the official body charged with investigating the root causes of the Watts Riot indicated that Anderson “hesitated when he should have acted” when directing the Guard out of their armories.

And, Governor Brown did not defend Anderson’s actions as Acting Governor during the Watts crisis until December 24, 1965, eighteen days after the McCone Commission had scolded the Lieutenant Governor. It appears that Brown waited until Christmas Eve, a day in which newspaper reading isn’t at the top of everyone’s list, so that little media attention would be placed upon his defense of Anderson. In the aftermath of Watts, Sam Yorty, the Mayor of Los Angeles, indicated to the Los Angeles Times that he had proposed to Brown the idea of running against Anderson in the 1966 Democratic primary election. According to Yorty, Brown pondered the idea, then rejected it (11/4/65, pp. 3).

The 1966 Democratic primary election saw Anderson draw two opponents. One of those opponents to Anderson, Lloyd Hand, may have been Brown’s stealth candidate in that particular race. First, Hand, prior to suddenly deciding to run for Lieutenant Governor one Friday afternoon in Washington, worked in the Johnson Administration as his liaison to California, and Brown’s close ties to LBJ were something the Governor made no attempt to hide. Indeed, according to the Los Angeles Times Brown appeared quite unsure about Anderson as his deputy publicly as the primary election drew nearer, indicating that he “had not discouraged anyone from running” for the job, and indicated of Hand that he was an “intelligent, public-spirited young man with tremendous possibilities. I am for Glenn Anderson” (3/24/66, pp. 30).

Those words hardly amounted to a ringing endorsement of Anderson, and while Anderson survived the primary, both he and Brown lost the November election; Anderson to Bob Finch, and Brown to Ronald Reagan. Thus, it is clear that Brown’s relationship with Anderson was not as strong as one might have assumed.

California’s Lieutenant Governor: Election and Appointment


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Electing the Lieutenant Governor

According to the National Lieutenant Governors Association (, California is among the 18 states that elect separately the Lieutenant Governor and Governor. For many years, California elections functioned with a closed primary election system, where voters registered to a political party could select their party’s nominee only, and all the nominees of the various parties competed against one another in the general election in November.

Now, with the advent of the top two primary system, voters can select from any candidate, whether they are affiliated with a political party or not, but only the top two candidates move on to the general election. In the June 2014 election, the top two primary did not result in any difference in the party makeup of nominees for the office, with the Democratic nominee (incumbent Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom) receiving the top spot, and the GOP nominee (former state fire board member Ron Nehring) winning second place.

Appointing the Lieutenant Governor

Since 1958, three vacancies have occurred during the middle of a term in the Lieutenant Governor’s office. The first two vacancies resulted in direct appointment by the Governor, during a time when legislative concurrence in such appointments was not required. The third vacancy in 2009 resulted in a bit of a standoff between the Governor and legislative leaders for a time before the gave their consent. And, during the third vacancy, an Acting Lieutenant Governor automatically assumed the office for a period of time to carry out the duties.

First, in January of 1969, Congressman Ed Reinecke was appointed by Governor Reagan to become Lieutenant Governor, filling the void left by Robert Finch, who departed to become Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare under President Richard Nixon. Then, in September of 1974, Reinecke was forced to resign after being convicted of perjury while in office, leaving the post vacant with only three months left to go in the term. Governor Reagan, after considering his options, appointed State Senator John Harmer–who also happened to be the GOP nominee for the job in the November general election–to be the Lieutenant Governor for the final 12 weeks in the term. However, officially assuming the office for which he was running didn’t help Harmer in the general election, as he lost to the Democratic nominee, State Senator Mervyn Dymally.

Finally, in early November of 2009, incumbent Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, which resulted in two actions. First, according to the California Government Code (Title 1, Division 4, Chapter 4, Article 2, Section 1775), when a vacancy in the Lieutenant Governor’s office occurs, the chief deputy automatically assumes the duties of the office, until a formal successor is appointed. In this case, Mona Pasquil became California’s first Acting Lieutenant Governor on November 5th, 2009, and continued to carry out such duties as sitting on the University of California Board of Regents and the State Lands Commission. However, the powers of the office of Lieutenant Governor (most notably, serving as Acting Governor during the absence of the Governor) devolved upon the President Pro Tem of the State Senate, then Darrell Steinberg, for the duration of the vacancy.

The second action related to the vacancy was the appointment later that month by Governor Schwarzenegger of a formal successor to the office, State Senator Abel Maldonado. However, since 1974, the rules regarding the appointment of state constitutional officers had changed, and this appointment now required confirmation of both houses of the California Legislature. After some back and forth between Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders through early 2010, including a formal rejection by the State Assembly of Maldonado’s nomination, he was formally confirmed as Lieutenant Governor in April of 2010 by a 51-17 vote in the Assembly, and a 25-7 vote in the upper house. However, Maldonado was defeated by Gavin Newsom in the general election in November of 2010. Thus, while California has not seen many vacancies occur in the office of Lieutenant Governor since 1958, two of the three vacancies have been, from a political perspective, rather interesting to observe.



California’s Lieutenant Governor: Statutory Responsibilities


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Like the California Constitution, statutory law in California provides the lieutenant governor with only a few specific duties, one of which might soon be abolished. First, the lieutenant governor does sit as an ex-officio member of the California State University (CSU) board of trustees, which does provide the office some clout with regards to student-centered issues.

In addition, the lieutenant governor presides as Chair of the California Commission for Economic Development. This commission was established in 1971 to serve as a bi-partisan advisory board on several policy areas related to economic development, and its membership consists of six appointed legislators and ten appointed private sector members. To underscore the bi-partisan nature of the group, the vice-chair of the commission must hail from a different political party than the lieutenant governor.  By some accounts, the commission has seen little activity since the mid-1990’s, with an occasional meeting being held now and then, the most recent apparently having occurred in April of 2013.  And, no roster of commission members is available via the lieutenant governor’s website as of May 29, 2014.

Another task the lieutenant governor is charged with according to state statute is to serve as a member (one of three, along with the Controller and Director of Finance) of the State Lands Commission. According to their website, the Commission is tasked with management of “sovereign” lands–better known as tidelands–extending from the coast to three miles out to sea, and “school” lands, the approximately 470,000 acres of land that remain granted to the state by Congress in 1853 for the benefit of public education, and additional 800,000 acres where the state, despite no longer having ownership, still retains mineral rights. In essence, the Commission appears to be involved heavily with geothermal, oil. mining, and other mineral-related issues, and clearly is the most influential commission or board the lieutenant governor sits on, owing to its 3-person membership, rotating chairmanship, and significant number of formal activities.

A final commission that California’s lieutenant governor is a member of–and one that may well be abolished soon–is the California Collider Commission. This board apparently was created in the 1980’s to help develop a super-collider project in the Golden State, and according to scattered news archives, appears to have seen its zenith in the late 1980’s as various states developed proposals for just such a project to be presented to the federal government. This commission does not appear to have met since that time, and due to its archaic nature, has been proposed as part of AB 2763 (2014) to be dissolved.

Thus, state statutes do provide California’s lieutenant governor some, though not a great deal, of significant responsibilities.



California’s Lieutenant Governor: Constitutional Duties



The California Constitution provides the lieutenant governor with only three formal duties. First, in Article 2, Section 17, the lieutenant governor is tasked with carrying out “recall duties” if  a formal attempt to remove the governor from office is ever carried out, a duty that can also be performed by the state controller in the event the state’s second-in-command is unable or unwilling to perform it. Political history on this front is rather scant, but in 2003, the lieutenant governor serving at the time, Cruz Bustamante, did carry out this task by officially scheduling the recall of then-Governor Gray Davis.

The second formal duty assigned to the lieutenant governor can be found in Article 5, Section 9, where he is designated as President of the California State Senate, and has a casting (tie-breaking) vote in that body, though in practice he rarely appears at Senate sessions other than during very formal events, such as the opening of a new session or the presentation of the State of the State address by the governor.

The third formal constitutional duty that the lieutenant governor is assigned is to serve as a member of the Board of Regents for the University of California (UC). The UC system is the only one of California’s three higher education systems to be formally noted within the constitution, and the lieutenant governor serves in an ex-officio capacity.

These three constitutional duties leave the lieutenant governor a bit of room, but not much, for political movement. Carrying out recall duties can be fraught with political danger if the lieutenant is from the same political party as the governor (as was the case in 2003), or could easily escalate into an exercise looking something less than dignified if the lieutenant and the governor hail from different political parties. And, presiding over the state senate in sessions other than very formal ones, is frowned upon by senate leadership, which leaves little room for political growth as well. Finally, serving as a UC regent can help boost the political profile of the lieutenant governor, especially during times when students may be seeking a member of their governing board to go to bat for them on a controversial issue, such as increases in student tuition. 

Thus, the state constitution does not assign many tasks for the lieutenant governor to perform, and there is little room for political growth via exercising constitutional duties, due to the imposition of formal and informal constraints.    

California’s Lieutenant Governor: Overview

California’s office of lieutenant governor provides quite a contrast to its contemporaries discussed previously in this blog, the lieutenant governors of Alaska and Hawaii. As the reader will see, California’s second-in-command does not by either statute or constitutional mandate direct a state agency, and the lieutenant governor in California does not have to be elected on the same ticket as the governor, which has made for some unique relationships over the years.

Specifically, I will focus on the following aspects of the Lieutenant Governor of California: 1) constitutional responsibilities; 2) statutory responsibilities; 3) the formal process of election to the office; 4) the formal rule of appointment to the office in case of a vacancy, and an assessment of the three vacancies that have occurred in the lieutenant governor’s office, in 1969, 1974, and 2009, and how those vacancies were filled; 4) the personalities who have held the office between 1959 and the present, and the nature of their relationship with the governor under whom they have served.

Thus, this should be an interesting look at California’s lieutenant governor, and I invite you to follow along over the next few weeks and months.