Gubernatorial Administration

61 Pages Posted: 4 Mar 2017 Last revised: 21 Dec 2017

Miriam Seifter

University of Wisconsin Law School


Scholarly preoccupation with presidential power has left another story of executive power largely untold: the rise of American governors. Once virtually powerless figureheads, governors have emerged today as the drivers of state government. On issues from the energy sector to election law, disaster relief to discrimination, governors regularly exercise their authority in ways that deeply affect millions of people within their home states. And governors’ reach extends beyond state borders. Governors leverage their control of state executive branches to shape national policy, mobilizing (or demobilizing) state agencies as a means of supporting or resisting federal actions on immigration, environmental law, healthcare, and more.

This Article identifies and evaluates the modern regime of gubernatorial administration. It uncovers how and why governors have gained authority, including powers that Presidents lack, and describes the limited checks on gubernatorial power from state-level institutions. It shows that centralized gubernatorial power not only has significant policy consequences, but also provides a new perspective on several contemporary debates — regarding executive power, federalism, and local government law. Gubernatorial administration emerges as a promising vehicle for efficacious governing and a new source of state resilience. But concentrated gubernatorial power also creates opportunities for executive overreach, at least in the absence of strong oversight by other institutions, such as state legislatures, courts, media outlets, or civil society — institutions that may currently lack the capacity or incentives to serve as an effective check.

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Keywords: administrative law, executive power, federalism, separation of powers, state and local government law, governors

Suggested Citation

Seifter, Miriam, Gubernatorial Administration. 131 Harvard Law Review 483 (2017); Univ. of Wisconsin Legal Studies Research Paper No. 1403. Available at SSRN:

Miriam Seifter (Contact Author)

University of Wisconsin Law School ( email )

975 Bascom Mall
Madison, WI 53706
United States

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