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Texas Politics - The Executive Branch
plural executive
secretary of state
9.    The Plural Executive

The plural executive in Texas limits the power of the Governor by distributing power usually associated with a chief executive among many elected political leaders. The only executive official appointed by the Governor is the Secretary of State. Other officials are elected independently and do not campaign for office as a unified slate. They do not have to answer to the Governor, nor do they work together as a cabinet in the way that executive officials serve the U.S. President. Party leadership may encourage unity among candidates, but the campaign organizations operate independently of each other. Compare this to the national campaign organization of the presidential and vice-presidential candidates, which is one entity and one choice on the ballot.

This arrangement produces an executive branch whose officials jealously guard their jurisdiction, their power, and their prerogatives. In short, everyone defends his or her turf, and the Governor lacks any formal power to dictate or referee. The Governor is often the nominal head of his or her party in the state, but this does not offset the institutional political base other executives possess. As a result, the executive branch lacks cohesion, with different executives and their agencies often pursuing different goals. Some of the attempts by the framers of the 1876 Constitution to hamstring the Governor, like the short two-year term, have been undone by constitutional amendment; other limitations have been undermined by historical change, like the development of mass media. These changes notwithstanding, the plural executive has proven a durable legacy of the 1876 authors, much to the frustration of many governors.

Texas Politics:
© 2009, Liberal Arts Instructional Technology Services
University of Texas at Austin
3rd Edition - Revision 115
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