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Each state sets its own qualifications regarding who can run for governor. Typically, qualifications include being a U.S. citizen, a resident of the state in question and attaining a certain age. Candidates must also pay filing fees and submit various documents to the state government. A state can change its rules, but the state's official website will provide the most recent requirements.
Many states set 30 as the minimum age to become governor – for example Alabama, Michigan, Texas and New York. California requires candidates to be registered voters, but sets no other age requirement. That would make the minimum age 18. The lieutenant governor's position in any state – equivalent to vice-president – has the same requirements, as she may have to replace the governor.
A candidate has to be a resident of the state he's running in. In most cases, he can't move there right before the election and qualify. To file in Alabama, for instance, you'd have to be a resident for seven years; in Michigan four; in Texas five. Florida's Division of Elections, however, only says you have to be a resident when you're elected, as well as a registered voter. Being a registered voter is a common requirement.
A candidate also has to be a U.S. citizen. The state may require several years of citizenship, in addition to the residency requirement; in Alabama, for example, it's seven years of residency but 10 years of citizenship. Other state websites simply say "citizen" without setting a duration.
Because of state term limits, a candidate's political history can work against her. In California, for example, you can't be elected governor if you've already served two terms since 1990. In Alabama, you're likewise allowed only two terms.
A candidate, even someone running as an independent, can't simply say "Vote for me" and get on the state ballot. He will have to complete all the requirements for filing as a candidate, which, like other rules, are set by state law or the state constitution. Look at California's filing and other requirements as an example:
- An Intention Statement declaring yourself as a candidate.
- A statement of economic interests detailing investments and real estate holdings, plus any income received for the year before filing.
- Signatures of at least 65 registered state voters supporting his nomination.
- A filing fee equal to 2 percent of the governor's first-year salary, or 10,000 voters' signatures on petitions supporting him. At time of writing, the fee is $3,479.94.
- Setting up a campaign contribution account. All contributions go into the account; all campaign expense money comes out of it.
- Write-in candidates don't have to pay filing fees. They do have to file nomination signatures and a statement they're running as a write-in candidate.
Other states have different requirements, but a gubernatorial candidate in any state should expect to pay fees and file documents.
- California Secretary of State Office: Summary of Qualifications and Requirements for the Office of Governor and Lt. Governor
- New York State: Running for Office
- Florida Division of Elections: FAQ
- Texas Politics: Texas Governor: The Basics
- Michigan Department of State: Filing Requirements
- Alabama Votes: Minimum Requirements for Public office