The Governor of the Commonwealth of Kentucky is the head of the executive branch of government in the U.S. state of Kentucky. Fifty-six men and one woman have held the office of governor of Kentucky. The governor's term is four years in length, and since 1992, incumbents have been able to seek re-election once before becoming ineligible for four years. Over the state's history, four men have served two non-consecutive terms as governor, and two others have served two consecutive terms. Kentucky is one of only five U.S. states that hold gubernatorial elections in odd-numbered years. The current governor is Steve Beshear. His term is set to expire in 2011, and he is seeking re-election.
The governor's powers are enumerated in the state constitution. There have been four constitutions of Kentucky – adopted in 1792, 1799, 1850, and 1891 respectively – and each has made changes to the governor's authority. Among the powers appropriated to the governor in the constitution are the ability to grant pardons, veto legislation, and call the legislature into session. The governor serves as commander-in-chief of the state's military forces and is empowered to enforce all the laws of the state. The officeholder is given broad statutory authority to make appointments to the various cabinets and departments of the executive branch, limited somewhat by the adoption of a merit system in 1960. Because Kentucky's governor controls so many appointments to commissions, the office has been historically considered one of the most powerful state executive positions in the United States. Additionally, the governor's influence has been augmented by wide discretion in awarding state contracts and significant influence over the legislature, although the latter has been waning since the mid-1970s.
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