Each state has its own constitution. That means each state also has its own qualifications for the governor's job, but they use similar criteria. In the 2012 Book on States, the Council on State Governments, or CSG, summarizes each state's age, residency, citizenship and voter-registration requirements. As far as other qualifications go, you'll need to gain the trust of the voters, which means your education, community involvement, as well as your work and public experience can garner you support.
You have to survive your twenties before you can become a governor in most states and territories. According to the CSG, only Massachusetts and Kansas don't have a minimum age requirement. California, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, Washington and Wyoming set the age at 18, while Arizona, Illinois, Louisiana, Minnesota, Montana and Nevada set the age at 25. The rest require that their governors be at least age 30. In America Samoa, the North Marianas and Puerto Rico, you must be 35 before you can take on the job.
If you want to be governor of Oklahoma, Missouri or the North Mariana Islands, let's hope you already live there. According to the CSG, you have to be a resident for 10 years before you can run for office. To be governor in Arizona, Kansas or Tennessee, you can live anywhere you want. Connecticut, Michigan, Ohio, South Dakota, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin have residency requirements, but they didn't supply specific information for the CSG's 2012 report. The rest of the states and territories have an average residency requirement of five years with the exception of Rhode Island, where it's only 30 days.
United States Citizenship
If you're not already a United States citizen, you'll have to wait a long time before you can run for governor of New Jersey or Mississippi. Both states require the governor to be a U.S. citizen for at least 20 years. About two-thirds of the states and territories have a citizenship qualification. The most common requirement is five years and the average is eight years. In Rhode Island, it's 30 days.
Some states require that candidates be a registered voter for a certain number of years before they can qualify for the governor's job. In Oklahoma, the registered voting requirement is 10 years, in Florida it's 7, in Maryland and Virginia it's 5 years, and in Michigan, you must be a registered voter for 4 years before you can run for governor. The CSG data lists 28 more states and territories with a voter-registration requirement, but doesn't indicate a specific number of years. About 20 states don't have any requirement at all. You can probably guess what the requirement is in Rhode Island -- only 30 days.
Steve McDonnell's experience running businesses and launching companies complements his technical expertise in information, technology and human resources. He earned a degree in computer science from Dartmouth College, served on the WorldatWork editorial board, blogged for the Spotfire Business Intelligence blog and has published books and book chapters for International Human Resource Information Management and Westlaw.