Longest-serving governor in American history steps down

Longest-serving governor in American history steps down
© Getty Images

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R) resigned Wednesday to become President Trump's envoy to China, ending the longest governorship in American history.

In an official ceremony in Des Moines, Branstad handed the reins to his lieutenant governor, Kim Reynolds, who will become Iowa’s first female governor. Iowa is the 28th state to be governed by a woman.

Branstad first won the governorship in 1982, the first of four consecutive terms in office. He left government for 12 years before returning in 2010, when he ousted Democratic Gov. Chet Culver. Branstad won reelection in 2014 by a wide margin.


Trump nominated Branstad to serve as ambassador to China earlier this year. On Monday, the Senate confirmed his appointment on an 82-13 vote.

He is the only governor in American history to have been elected to six four-year terms. Wednesday, the day he resigned, marked Branstad’s 8,169th day in the governor’s mansion. 

Four other governors served four terms in office, amounting to around 5,850 days of service, according to the Smart Politics blog maintained by University of Minnesota political scientist Eric Ostermeier: Bill Janklow (R) of South Dakota, George Wallace (D) of Alabama, Ohio’s Jim Rhodes (R) and North Carolina’s Jim Hunt (D). California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) will join that list when he ends his second two-term stint in office in 2019.

Reynolds, a former state senator tapped by Branstad to serve as his lieutenant governor in 2010, will become the 39th woman to head a state in American history. Five other states — New Mexico, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Oregon and Alabama — are currently led by women.

Twenty-two states, including California, Pennsylvania, New York and Florida, have never had a female governor.

Reynolds will begin running for a full term in 2018 almost immediately. She faces one potential challenger in the Republican primary so far, Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett, though most of the state Republican establishment has already lined up behind her.