To serve as Governor of Texas, a person must be at least thirty years old, a United States citizen, and a resident of Texas for at least five years preceding his or her election. These are the only legal requirements to hold the office. This chapter's feature Making the Cut compares qualifications in Texas to other states and to the qualifications to be president.
Voters loosened one constraint on the governor's powers in 1972 by approving a constitutional amendment to extend the term of office from two to four years. This measure went into effect in 1975. The first governor to be elected to two consecutive four-year terms was George W. Bush, though he did not complete his second term after being elected US President in 2000. He was succeeded by Rick Perry, who is now the longest serving Texas governor, after winning election in 2002, 2006, and 2010. His use of the appointive powers of the governorship over his more than a decade in office have resulted in an increase in the political power of the state's chief executive.
Though personal characteristics are, of course, not requirements, there are some patterns in the group of governors elected since the Constitution of 1876. All but two governors, Miriam "Ma" Ferguson (1925-1927, 1933-1935) and Ann Richards (1991-1995), have been men, and all have been white Anglos. More governors have been trained as lawyers than any other occupation, though the previous occupations of the non-lawyer governors have varied. All Texas governors since annexation have been Protestants, mostly Baptists and Methodists.
However, the significant and growing predominantly Catholic Mexican-American population of Texas, and the corresponding importance of Latinos both in the electorate and as political leaders, suggest that the pattern of Protestant governors may be broken eventually. The Democratic Party nominated a Latino, businessman (and University of Texas Regent) Tony Sanchez of Laredo, as their gubernatorial candidate in 2002, but Sanchez lost by a wide margin to incumbent Rick Perry. In the 2006 election, Jewish write-in candidate Kinky Friedman earned only a small, but significant, fraction of the vote. Meanwhile, Rick Perry was reelected with a solid plurality in what was essentially a four-way race. Perry won again in 2010 when he ran against former Houston Mayor Bill White. While both the candidates for governor in 2010 were white Anglos, the growing racial and ethnic heterogeneity of Texas may slowly erode the hold of Protestant candidates on the governorship.
In the feature box on the right side of the page, you can view a table of information and images concerning Texas Governors Since 1874. You can also see the trend in approval of the governor's job performance over the life of the University of Texas / Texas Tribune poll.