Jay Inslee: Moving Up the Ranks
Washington’s 23rd governor recently became the 62nd politician in U.S. history to record 10 years of gubernatorial service
Former six-term Republican U.S. Representative Jaime Herrera-Beutler is reportedly giving serious consideration to running for governor of Washington in 2024 as her party tries to end its longest electoral drought for the office in the nation.
Democratic Governor Jay Inslee has not yet announced his candidacy for a fourth term. Inslee is the sixth oldest current governor and will be nearly 74 years old on Election Day next November.
Last month, Governor Inslee eclipsed 10 years of gubernatorial service – one of 62 to do so in the United States since 1789.
As of Monday, Inslee has logged 10 years, 1 month, 12 days on the job since being sworn into office in January 2013.
That is good for 58th on the all-time gubernatorial service list, passing Nevada Democrat Bob Miller (10 years, 2 days), Tennessee Democrat Frank Clement (10 years, 7 days), Connecticut Democrat William O’Neill (10 years, 10 days), and Minnesota DFLer Rudy Perpich (10 years, 12 days) over the last month.
Inslee is slated to crack the Top 50 on January 10, 2024 when he ties Massachusetts Federalist Caleb Strong (1800-1807, 1812-1816) at 10 years, 11 months, 26 days.
Along the way he will also pass up:
- Montana Democrat Joseph Toole (1889-1893, 1901-1908): 10 years, 4 months, 21 days
- Arkansas Republican Mike Huckabee (1996-2007): 10 years, 5 months, 26 days
- Colorado Republican John Love (1963-1973): 10 years, 6 months, 9 days
- New York Democrat Andrew Cuomo (2011-2021): 10 years, 7 months, 23 days
- California Republican Earl Warren (1943-1953): 10 years, 9 months, 2 days
- Utah Republican Michael Leavitt (1993-2003): 10 years, 10 months, 2 days
- Vermont Federalist Isaac Tichenor (1797-1807, 1808-1809): 10 years, 11 months, 25 days
Four long-serving governors ranked in the Top 50 have retired during the last five-plus years:
- #49 – Utah Republican Gary Herbert (2009-2021): 11 years, 4 months, 25 days
- #24 – Idaho Republican Butch Otter (2007-2019): 12 years, 7 days
- #3 – California Democrat Jerry Brown (1975-1983, 2011-2019): 16 years, 5 days
- #1 – Iowa Republican Terry Branstad (1983-1999, 2011-2017): 22 years, 4 months, 13 days
Texas Republican Greg Abbott is poised to become the next governor to crack the 10 years of service mark – doing so less than two years from now on January 20, 2025.
Should Inslee run for reelection in 2024 and serve the entirety of his fourth term, he would reach #5 in gubernatorial tenure at 16 years, 2 days and become the fifth governor to reach 16 full years of service.
If Inslee retires at the end of this term, he will exit with exactly 12 years of service (4,383 days) – tied for 34th place in U.S. history.
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Is Andrew Cuomo just outside the Top 50 as well? He served 10 years, 7 months, 23 days from 2011 to 2021 which puts him between John Love and Earl Warren.
An interesting question: Cuomo was the most senior governor in the nation from January to August 2021, after the retirement of Gary Herbert. Who in recent times has had a shorter spell as “most senior governor”?
Correct – Inslee will also pass up A. Cuomo during the next year (good catch). Cuomo is #54 with those 3,888 days of service.
This does have an interesting answer. The full list of “most senior governors” going back half a century is:
*Jan. 10, 1967 – Dec. 18, 1973: Nelson Rockefeller (R-N.Y.)
*Dec. 18, 1973 – Dec. 2, 1974: John A. Burns (D-Hi.)
*Dec. 2, 1974 – Jan. 3, 1977: Cal Rampton (D-Utah)
*Jan. 3, 1977 – Jan. 12, 1977: Daniel J. Evans (R-Wash.)
*Jan. 12, 1977 – Jan. 17, 1979: Marvin Mandel (D-Md.)
*Jan. 17, 1979 – Jan. 14, 1983: Robert D. Ray (R-Iowa)
*Jan. 14, 1983 – Dec. 1, 1986: George Ariyoshi (D-Hi.)
*Dec. 1, 1986 – Jan. 5, 1987: Edgar Herschler (D-Wyo.)
*Jan. 5, 1987 – Jan. 13, 1987: Richard Lamm (D-Colo.)
*Jan. 13, 1987 – Jan. 14, 1991: James R. Thompson (R-Ill.)
*Jan. 14, 1991 – Dec. 31, 1994: Mario Cuomo (D-N.Y.)
*Jan. 1, 1995 – Jan. 15, 1999: Terry Branstad (R-Iowa)
*Jan. 15, 1999 – Feb. 1, 2001: Tommy Thompson (R-Wis.)
*Feb. 1, 2001 – Jan. 1, 2003: John Engler (R-Mich.)
*Jan. 1, 2003 – Jan. 9, 2003: Howard Dean (D-Vt.)
*Jan. 9, 2003 – Nov. 5, 2003: Mike Leavitt (R-Utah)
*Nov. 5, 2003 – Dec. 31, 2006: George Pataki (R-N.Y.)
*Dec. 31, 2006 – Jan. 9, 2007: Mike Huckabee (R-Ark.)
*Jan. 9, 2007 [noon CT] – Jan. 9, 2007 [noon MT]: Bill Owens (R-Colo.)
*Jan. 9, 2007 – Jan. 12, 2007: Tom Vilsack (D-Iowa)
*Jan. 12, 2007 – Dec. 7, 2010: John Hoeven (R-N.D.)
*Dec. 7, 2010 – Jan. 20, 2015: Rick Perry (R-Tex.)
*Jan. 20, 2015 – Jan. 7, 2019: Butch Otter (R-Ida.)
*Jan. 7, 2019 – Jan. 4, 2021: Gary Herbert (R-Utah)
*Jan. 4, 2021 – Aug. 23, 2021: Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.)
*Aug. 24, 2021 – present: Jay Inslee (D-Wash.)
As can be seen, there have been many governors who held the distinction of “most senior governor” for a short duration, essentially by chance since term-start dates for different states can be mere days apart. For example, one long-serving governor who did not make the list is William Milliken (R-Mich.), who took office a few days after Robert D. Ray and left office a few days before him.
Thus, the shortest interval as “most senior governor” was recorded by Bill Owens on Jan. 9, 2007. As far as I can tell, the governors of Arkansas and Colorado both take office at noon local time on the second Tuesday of January following their elections, but since Arkansas is an hour ahead of Colorado, Huckabee left office about an hour before Owens did, leaving Owens as the nation’s longest-serving governor still in office, for the last hour of his term (yes seriously).
Rockefeller had the longest stretch as “most senior governor”, at least of the last half-century, at nearly 7 years. Had George W. Bush resigned as governor just a few days earlier than he did, though, Perry would have had the title for 8 years, from 2007 to 2015.
The vast majority of governors on this list retired [whether term limited or truly retired] in a regular manner. The exceptions: four resigned to accept another office (Rockefeller, T. Thompson, Leavitt, Hoeven), one resigned in scandal (A. Cuomo), and one lost re-election (M. Cuomo).
Owens and Vilsack are the only two-term governors on the list, in the last half-century. Mandel, Leavitt, Huckabee, Hoeven, Herbert, and A. Cuomo served two full terms and part of a third. All others have served at least three full terms.
[Note: In making this list I excluded prior non-consecutive terms from counting towards seniority. For example, when Branstad returned as governor in 2011 he did not immediately become the “most senior governor” despite having previously served four terms. Likewise, Jerry Brown did not become the “most senior governor” upon Branstad’s resignation in 2017.]
The GOP had 4 consecutive governors on the list totaling nearly 14 years from 2007 to 2021. Indeed, between 1995 and 2021, apart from a few days in 2003 and 2007, the most senior governor was a Republican. [This is in contrast to the U.S. Congress from 1995 to 2021, where the dean of the Senate was a Democrat for 18 of those 26 years, and the dean of the House was a Democrat for 23 of those 26 years.]
Meanwhile, the longest Democratic streak adds up to less than 4 years from 1983 to 1987. M. Cuomo nearly tied this record by himself from 1991 to 1995, and if Inslee completes his current term then A. Cuomo and he will have set a new record.
The 26 governors on the list represent 16 states. New York leads the way with 4, while Utah and Iowa each have 3. Amusingly, the three governors of Iowa on the list (Ray, Branstad, Vilsack) are all consecutive. Wyoming and Colorado are on the list but are unlikely to appear again since they instituted term limits after their three-termers (Herschler and Lamm respectively) left office.
If former Representative Jaime Lynn H B were to bid for and win, she would become only the fourth former US House member from Evergreen Washington to serve as the governor thereof, following incumbent Jay Robert Inslee (a former member technically twice over), “Mike” Lowry, and Monrad Charles Wallgren (who served in the US senate between his House and governor tenures).
It is worth noting that EACH of the successful onetime US House members-turned-WA state governors had parlayed at least 1 statewide campaign prior to capturing the chief executive post – Inslee in 1996 for governor, Lowry for Senate in both 1988 and 1983 for Senate, and Wallgren in 1940 for Senate.
By contrast, Herrera Beutler would be waging her very first statewide campaign. While the aforemetioned history is unfavorable for her chances (only Wallgren in 1944 defeated an incumbent), she is a well-known political figure, arguably better known than Inslee and Lowry during their losing initial statewide bids. And the ‘top-two’ jungle primary ballot assuredly would bolster her odds of placing in one of the spots for the final balloting. Whether she cobbles together enough votes to advance…
The potential Inslee vs. Herrera-Beutler general election matchup would thus be the first in state history where both major-party candidates had previous service in the U.S. House.
Only a dozen gubernatorial general elections since 1980 have featured two current or former U.S. representatives:
*Louisiana, 1983: Edwin Edwards (D, 1965-72) vs. David Treen (R, 1973-80)
*Louisiana, 1987: runoff would have been between Buddy Roemer (D, 1981-88) and Edwin Edwards (D, 1965-72); third place was Bob Livingston (R, 1977-99) and fourth place was Billy Tauzin (D, 1980-2005)
*New Jersey, 1989: James Florio (D, 1975-90) vs. Jim Courter (R, 1979-91)
*Connecticut, 1990: Lowell Weicker (ACP, 1969-71) vs. John G. Rowland (R, 1985-91) vs. Bruce Morrison (D, 1983-91)
*Maine, 1990: John R. McKernan, Jr. (R, 1983-87) vs. Joseph E. Brennan (D, 1987-91)
*California, 1998: Gray Davis (D) vs. Dan Lungren (R, 1979-89) vs. Daniel Hamburg (G, 1993-95)
*Connecticut, 1998: John G. Rowland (R, 1985-91) vs. Barbara B. Kennelly (D, 1982-99)
*Ohio, 2010: John Kasich (R, 1983-2001) vs. Ted Strickland (D, 1993-95 & 1997-2007)
*Arkansas, 2014: Asa Hutchinson (R, 1997-2001) vs. Mike Ross (D, 2001-13)
*New Mexico, 2018: Michelle Lujan Grisham (D, 2013-18) vs. Steve Pearce (R, 2003-09 & 2011-19)
*Florida, 2022: Ron DeSantis (R, 2013-18) vs. Charlie Crist (D, 2017-22)
*New York, 2022: Kathy Hochul (D, 2011-13) vs. Lee Zeldin (R, 2015-23)
Moreover, Washington is currently in the midst of a rarity: former U.S. representatives occupy the offices of both governor and lieutenant governor – Jay Inslee (D, 1993-95 & 1999-2012) and Denny Heck (D, 2013-21). Other examples that come to mind:
*Washington, 1993-97: Mike Lowry (D, 1979-89) and Joel Pritchard (R, 1973-85)
*Arkansas, 2015-23: Asa Hutchinson (R, 1997-2001) and Tim Griffin (R, 2011-15)
*New York, 2022-present: Kathy Hochul (D, 2011-13) and Antonio Delgado (D, 2019-22)
Are there others?
Michigan 1983-91 — Jim Blanchard (D, 1975-83) and Martha Griffiths (D, 1955-75).
N.C. 1989-93 — Jim Martin (R, 1973-85) and Jim Gardner (R,1967-69).
One close-but-no-cigar: South Carolina, 1986 — Carroll Campbell (R, 1979-87) and Thomas Hartnett (R, 1981-86), were GOP nominees for Gov and LG respectively. The officers were elected separately at the time, and Campbell won, but unfortunately Hartnett fell a bit short.
Doug Burgum would have 16 years under his belt after 2 more terms. ND passed a term limit law last year that doesn’t effect him.
Jamie Beutler could be a decent candidate but can she pass the primary? That’s big question.