The Governor of California is the head of the executive branch of California's government and the commander-in-chief of the state's military forces. The governor has a duty to enforce state laws, and the power to either approve or veto bills passed by the California Legislature, to convene the legislature, and to grant pardons, except in cases of impeachment.
There have been 38 governors, each one serving a single distinct term. Many governors have been influential nationwide, in areas far-flung from politics. Leland Stanford founded Stanford University in 1891. Earl Warren, later Chief Justice of the United States, won an election with the nominations of the three major parties – the only person ever to run essentially unopposed for governor of California. Ronald Reagan, who was president of the Screen Actors Guild and later President of the United States, and current governor Arnold Schwarzenegger both came to prominence through acting. Gray Davis was the first governor of California, and second governor in American history, to be recalled by voters. The longest term was Earl Warren's, who was elected three times and served nearly ten years. The shortest term was that of Milton Latham, who served only five days before appointing himself to a vacant U.S. Senate seat. The current governor is Arnold Schwarzenegger, who took office on November 17, 2003, following the recall of Gray Davis. Schwarzenegger's term will expire on January 3, 2011, when Governor-Elect Edmund Gerald "Jerry" Brown, Jr. will re-assume office.
California was obtained by the United States in the Mexican Cession following the Mexican–American War. Unlike most other states, it was never organized as a territory, and was admitted as a state on September 9, 1850.
The original California Constitution of 1849 called for elections every two years, with no set start date for the term. An amendment ratified in 1862 increased the term to four years, and the 1879 constitution set the term to begin on the first Monday in January following an election. In 1990, Proposition 140 led an amendment to the constitution to be adopted, implementing a term limit of two terms; prior to this limit, only one governor had been elected to more than two terms, Earl Warren. The 1849 constitution also created the office of lieutenant governor, who, in cases of vacancy in the office of governor, becomes governor. The governor and lieutenant governor are not elected on the same ticket.
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