The Missing Lieutenant Governor

As anyone who visits Wikipedia can tell you, Gavin Newsom is the 49th Lieutenant Governor of California. What few people know is that the count of Lt. Governors is off by one, and that Newsom is actually Lt. Governor #50.

As we reviewed in a recent article, there have been five different ways to assume the office of Lieutenant Governor (including three which are still available today).

Arthur H. Breed, Sr.was the longest-serving President pro Tem of the California State Senate, serving 17 years from January 8, 1917 to September 15, 1934. One interesting note is that he authored the bill the created the DMV and required the licensing of automobile drivers.

During his 17 years as President pro Tem, the office of Lt. Governor became vacant on two occasions; March 15, 1917 to January 7, 1919 and June 7, 1934 to January 8, 1935. It’s important to note that Breed was not acting Lieutenant Governor for those whole periods. Because Breed was Lieutenant Governor by virtue of his being an officer of the Senate, he only served as President pro Tem during the time that the legislature was in session. This means that his total tenure as Lieutenant Governor (54 days) was broken into three short terms;

March 15 – April 27, 1917 [45 days] (between the resignation of William D. Stephens and the end of the 42nd Legislature.

January 6 – 7, 1919 [1 day] (between the start of session for the 43rd Legislature and the inauguration of C. C. Young (following his election in November 1918).

September 12 – 15, 1934 [4 days] (for the duration of the 1st Extraordinary Session of the 50th Legislature. Lt. Governor Frank F. Merriam had become Governor in January, 1934).

Together, Breed served as acting Lieutenant Governor for a total of 50 days. His service was not the only to last less than a year (seven other Lt. Governors served terms of less than 300 days) and was also not the shortest. In 1860, John G. Downey served for only 5 days before resigning to become Governor.

Interestingly, Breed has been left off the official list of Lt. Governors for nearly 90 years. Research by the team is continuing, and we hope to either find out why Breed was excluded or correct this omission if no reason is found.


Updated: August 27, 2011
Research uncovered a 1916 Los Angeles Times article that notes that “State Senator Arthur H. Breed… admitted to friends in this city today that he would be made president of the Senate when the forty-second session organized early next January… Senator Breed, if elected to the position he seeks, will rank as Lieutenat Governor.”

Source: “May Select Breed Head of Senate” by Direct Wire Exclusive Dispatch, Los Angeles Times (November 24, 1916), p. I4

California’s Legislature, 2011 ed.

Thursday marked the release of the 2011 edition of California’s Legislature by the Assembly Chief Clerk’s Office. The book, updated and released periodically since the 1940s, was most recently updated in 2006.

Among the features in the new edition;

  • The party composition of the Legislature for each session since 1849.
  • An expanded glossary of legislative terms.
  • Descriptions of the origin and meaning of the names of California’s counties. (The best is “Napa” which comes from a Native American word meaning either “grizzly bear”, “house”, “motherland”, or “fish”.)

The book can be purchased from the Legislative Bill Room, at 916-445-2645.

Five Ways to Become Lieutenant Governor

During research into the history of the office of Lieutenant Governor, one interesting fact became increasingly obvious; there are more different ways to assume that office than any other. In fact, our current count is that there have been five distinct ways to assume California’s second highest office;

  1. Election by voters in a statewide election (ex. Gavin Newsom and John Garamendi)
  2. Appointed by Governor to fill the vacancy. Since the 1970s, the Governor has had the ability to appointment a new Lt. Governor when the office becomes vacant. The appointment must be approved by both houses of the legislature (ex. Abel Maldonado and John Harmer)
  3. Prior to the 1970s, the Senate President pro Tem automatically became the Acting Lieutenant Governor when a vacancy occured, filling that position for the remainder of the term (ex. William Irwin and Stephen M. White). Now Pro Tems only fill the vacancy until the Governor’s appointee is confirmed.
  4. Should the Pro Tem decline to serve as Acting Lt. Governor, the Chief Deputy of the last Lt. Governor becomes the acting officeholder until the appointee is confirmed by the legislature. (ex. Mona F. Pasquil)
  5. On three occasions, the office of Lt. Governor was vacant at the start of a legislative session and the Senate elected both a President of the Senate (Lt. Governor) and a President pro Tem. Although similar to Pro Tem succession (ex. David C. Broderick, Isaac N. Quinn and Pablo De La Guerra