Five New Lieutenant Governors This Year

By John Celock

The nation has five new lieutenant governors this year with three midterm vacancies combining with two newly elected state seconds in command.

Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer’s (R) announcement Tuesday that Salina businessman Tracey Mann is succeeding him in the lieutenant governor’s office completed the list. Mann, who will be sworn-in Wednesday afternoon, is expected to be the last lieutenant governor sworn into office this year until scheduled inaugurations in Alaska and Hawaii in December.


Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton’s (D) decision to name then Lt. Gov. Tina Smith (D) to an open U.S. Senate seat starting in January paved the way for Senate President Michelle Fischbach (R) to succeed to the lieutenant governorship for the remaining year of Smith’s term. Dayton’s decision also led to rumors of political intrigue and legal debates.

Fischbach insists that she can take on the lieutenant governor’s office while remaining in the Senate, but Democrats insist that she cannot hold both offices for the year. If Fischbach were to be forced out of the Senate, a special election would be held for her seat, in a chamber where Republicans hold a one seat majority.

Fischbach says that a century old state Supreme Court ruling says that she can hold both offices, but Democrats note that changes made to the lieutenant governor’s duties to make it solely an executive office have voided the decision. Earlier this week a judge dismissed a lawsuit to force Fischbach out of the Senate, saying that the courts cannot make someone leave the Senate and that the Senate was not in session until later this month.

Fischbach has said that if she is forced out of the Senate by the courts, she will enter the special election for her Senate seat and will step down as lieutenant governor.

Fischbach has said that she does not intend to serve full time in the lieutenant governor’s office and would fulfill the lieutenant governor’s seats on a handful of state boards. Dayton has indicated he would not be including Fischbach as a member of his administration. Fischbach is not seeking a full term in the lieutenant governor’s office this year.


Democrat Justin Fairfax took office as Virginia’s new lieutenant governor last month. The second African American ever elected to statewide office in Virginia, Fairfax defeated Republican Sen. Jill Vogel in last year’s election.

Fairfax comes to the lieutenant governorship four years after he lost the Democratic primary for state attorney general. Fairfax was viewed as the Democratic frontrunner for lieutenant governor for most of 2017, having developed strong relationships in the party between his runs for statewide office.

As lieutenant governor, Fairfax serves as president of the Virginia Senate and on a variety of state boards. In addition, he can take on duties assigned by Gov. Ralph Northam (D), his predecessor.

New Jersey

Democrat Sheila Oliver, a former state Assembly speaker, was sworn-in last month as New Jersey’s second ever lieutenant governor. Oliver, the first woman of color elected statewide in New Jersey history, was elected as the running mate of Gov. Phil Murphy (D).

Oliver has been a longtime fixture in New Jersey politics, including stints as an Essex County freeholder and an East Orange Board of Education member. She served seven terms in the state Assembly, including four years as speaker.

Oliver has been tapped by Murphy to serve as commissioner of community affairs during her tenure as lieutenant governor. As community affairs commissioner she oversees local government, housing, building codes, fire safety, Superstorm Sandy recovery and Atlantic City.


For a few days this month, Hawaii had an issue where no one wanted to be lieutenant governor. Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui (D) suddenly resigned to take a private sector job after already announcing plans not to seek reelection this year. The state’s two top legislative leaders – the first two in line to succeed to the lieutenant governorship – both declined to take a 10-month stint as lieutenant governor, and give up their more powerful legislative posts.

Attorney General Doug Chin (D), the third in line of succession, then said he needed a few days to decide whether he wanted to be lieutenant governor or would the job pass to state Comptroller Rod Becker. Chin, who was planning to step down as attorney general in March to focus on his bid for Congress, decided to take on the lieutenant governor’s office and was sworn-in earlier this month.

Chin has said that he will continue with his congressional campaign and only serve as lieutenant governor until the term ends in December. Chin vacated the attorney general’s office several weeks early to become lieutenant governor.

The official duties of Hawaii’s lieutenant governor are light, mainly approving name changes and overseeing other state government clerical tasks, along with serving as acting governor when the governor leaves the state. Tsutsui also oversaw a farm-to-table school lunch initiative and said that Gov. David Ige (D) did not include him in his administration. Previous lieutenant governors were given a variety of duties by governors.

Chin’s term expires in December and several candidates are seeking the job this year.


Mann takes over an 11-month term as lieutenant governor succeeding Colyer, the state’s longest serving lieutenant governor. Colyer became governor on Jan. 31 succeeding Republican Sam Brownback, who stepped down to become an ambassador. A Salina businessman, Mann unsuccessfully ran for Congress in 2010.

Mann’s duties as lieutenant governor have not been outlined by Colyer, who noted that he will tap Mann’s background in business and rural affairs. Kansas’ lieutenant governor also serves on several boards.

Mann is the first person appointed to a vacant lieutenant governor’s office since Iowa Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg (R) was appointed last year. Gregg succeeded Gov. Kim Reynolds (R), who became governor after Republican Terry Branstad stepped down for an ambassadorship.