North Carolina elects its governor every four years, in the same year as the U.S. presidential race.

Governors must be 30 years old, have been U.S. citizens for at least five years and residents of North Carolina for at least two years prior to being elected.

Here are common questions about the North Carolina governor, answered.

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Who is currently the governor of North Carolina?

The governor of North Carolina is Roy Cooper, a Democrat who was elected in 2016. He previously had served four terms as state attorney general, and was elected seven times to the state legislature before that.

Gov. Roy Cooper

Cooper is a native of Nash County and attended UNC-Chapel Hill as a Morehead Scholar. He later practiced law in his hometown before beginning his career in public service.

Cooper is known as a centrist, pragmatic politician who feels more comfortable hammering out compromises than playing hardball. As governor, He has been a strong advocate for increased funding for public education. In the attorney general’s office, Cooper made a national reputation in consumer protection.

Who are some notable past governors of North Carolina?

Gov. Pat McCrory served as governor from 2012 to 2016 before becoming the first governor to lose a re-election campaign. The former mayor of Charlotte instituted a new data-driven method for allocating transportation money, reformed the Division of Motor Vehicles and presided over a $2 billion construction bond for colleges, universities and state facilities. He was one of only three Republican governors to win election in the state since 1900.

Photo by Pat McCrory via Facebook

Gov. Bev Perdue served as governor from 2008 to 2012, but suffered from low approval ratings tied to her response to the economic crisis that led to the Great Recession. She was the first woman to be elected governor in North Carolina, but declined to run for re-election.

Gov. Jim Hunt served four total terms as North Carolina governor, from 1977–1985 and 1993–2001. He was known for his work in education and economic development.

Gov. Terry Sanford served from 1961 to 1965 and was closely tied to President John F. Kennedy. Sanford was known as progressive on civil rights and ran twice for president in the 1970s.

What does the governor of North Carolina do?

Per the state constitution, the main duties of the governor are to:

  • Prepare a recommended budget each year, including forecasted revenues.
  • Execute the budget approved by the General Assembly.
  • Serve as commander in chief of the state’s National Guard.
  • Grant pardons or commute sentences.
  • Call special sessions of the state legislature.
  • Oversee the administrative offices of the state.

In practice, though, the governor’s duties mainly involve recruiting business to North Carolina and coordinating disaster and inclement weather response.

North Carolina has one of the weakest governors in the nation. The state’s chief executive started out as a one-year position appointed by the state legislature, and has lagged behind other states in institutional authority ever since.

North Carolina governors were barred from a second term until 1971 and only received veto power in 1996.

What is the N.C. governor’s salary?

The current salary of the North Carolina governor is $144,349.

What experience do North Carolina governors typically have?

The “AG” in Attorney General has been said to really stand for “Aspiring Governor,” and it’s been pretty accurate in recent North Carolina history. But there’s really no clear path. Here are the routes the last eight governors took.

Roy Cooper (2016-present): N.C. Attorney General for 4 terms — a whopping 16 years — before running for governor. He had previously been elected three times to the the N.C. House before being appointed to the N.C. Senate, where he served 10 years.

Pat McCrory (2012-2016): Mayor of Charlotte for 14 years.

Bev Perdue (2008-2012): Lieutenant Governor for two terms, previously in the N.C. Senate.

Mike Easley (2000-2008): N.C. Attorney General for two terms. He was an elected county district attorney down east for eight years before that.

Jim Hunt (1976-1984, 1992-2000): Lieutenant Governor for one term prior to being elected.

Jim Martin (1984-1992): U.S. House for six terms prior to running for governor. He was a former Mecklenburg County commissioner.

James Holshouser (1972-1976): N.C. House for 10 years prior to being elected. He also served as Republican Party chairman.

Bob Scott (1968-1972): Lieutenant Governor for one term before being elected. That was his first elected office.

Where does the governor of North Carolina live?

Per the state constitution, the North Carolina governor is required to live in Raleigh, the “seat of government.”

Governors generally live in the Executive Mansion, built in 1883 on North Blount Street.

Since 1964, the state has also owned a Western Executive Residence in Asheville.

The Executive Mansion. Photo by NAVFAC via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Who could be governor of North Carolina in the future?

Gov. Roy Cooper is widely expected to run for re-election in 2020.

Republicans have several possibilities to challenge him. The most likely is Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, a favorite of social conservatives and possessor of a strong political pedigree.

[Longleaf story: Is Dan Forest the inevitable Republican nominee for governor?]

Dan Forest. Photo via Lt. Gov. Dan Forest on Facebook.

Former Gov. Pat McCrory is reportedly considering another run, and U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, N.C. Senate Speaker Pro Tem Phil Berger are also potential candidates.

Cover image of Gov. Roy Cooper by NCDOT via Flickr (Creative Commons).


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