When I first learned various states hold elections for state cabinet positions I was puzzled, because there are no such elections for federal secretaries. Why do so many states do it like this, instead of having them appointed by governor? Doesn't it create incohesion when there are different secretaries from different parties in the state governments? I couldn't find any answer to this online.

  • 3
    Can you edit an example of a state that does this into the Question?
    – Jontia
    Oct 25, 2020 at 6:40
  • 1
    @Jontia Many states have at least some elected positions in the cabinet that would be appointed positions at the federal level. For example, 35 states have elected Secretaries of State, while 43 have elected Attorneys General, and 36 have elected Treasurers. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._statewide_elected_officials
    – Joe C
    Oct 25, 2020 at 11:54
  • I think there's also a general trend toward smaller constituencies being viewed as being able to "pay attention" to more elections. I'm more familiar with the needs of my state with regard to electing a SOS, AG, auditor, etc. whereas the immense federal gov't is maybe more appropriately managed by electing one president who can promulgate those lower-ranking posts. Nov 24, 2020 at 16:19
  • I would wager a proper understanding of this will require delving into the history and timing: when, in particular, did states start doing these things? Have they been a part of state constitutions from the beginning, did they start making these changes later and around similar times, etc.? Nov 25, 2020 at 7:37

1 Answer 1


Why do states do it like this, instead of having them appointed by governor?

The intent is to weaken the power of the governor, compared to the power of the President of the United States.

Several states have their lieutenant governors elected separately by the people rather than as a joint governor / lieutenant governor ticket. Several states have key statewide executive positions elected separately by the people rather than appointed by the governor. Several states have elected rather than appointed judges.

An extreme example is Texas, where the lieutenant governor arguably has more power than does the governor. Unlike the President of the United States, the Governor of Texas does not appoint judges, does not appoint key executive positions, and except for legislative veto, has no authority over the state budget. Unlike the Vice President of the United States, the Lieutenant Governor of Texas has rather broad authority over the budget and has significant authority over the Texas State Senate, including setting the legislative agenda. Neither has authority over key executive positions or judges because these are independent elected positions.

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    This is interesting at the very least. Is the "intent to weaken" the governor explicitly documented anywhere for any of the states in question? Or is the intention only understood by examining the effect of many different pieces of legislation?
    – Jontia
    Nov 24, 2020 at 16:54

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