Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Political Science

First Advisor

Daniel J. Palazzolo

Second Advisor

John T. Whelan

Third Advisor

William K. Swinford


The foundations of lame duck theory, the expression connoting the study of executive/legislative relations in association with tenure constraints, are composed of broad generalizations which are generally unchallenged by political scientists. Evidence in support of this assertion is scattered throughout relevant literature, most of which centers upon the national executive, the two-term limitation imposed by the Twenty Second Amendment, and the subsequent lack of influence our country's presidents wield as their "political capital dwindles" proportionate with the temporal progress of their second term. Interestingly, while a great deal of time and energy has been devoted to the discussion of the lame duck president, 11very little has been done to analyze systematically" the lame duck governor. As such, "our understanding of the governor's ability to influence legislative action and policy-making" as the conclusion of his/her term approaches "remains highly speculative and individualized." This project, while not the first to question the soundness of lame duck theory, makes an important contribution by providing a systematic analysis of lame duck theory at the state level. By analyzing the executive success rates, defined as the ability of the head of state to initiate and gain the passage of their executive package, 2 of two of Virginia's recent Governors, Gerald Baliles (1986-1989) and L. Douglas Wilder (1990-1993), I will attempt to illustrate that an executive's success in his or her dealings with the state legislature toward the end of their tenure is not wholly dependent upon the electoral limitations and the executive's lame duck status. Rather, it is hypothesized that despite the constraints cited in lame duck theory, during a governor's final year in office executive success still hinges on other critical variables associated with executive/legislative relations: the governor's future ambitions, personality traits and leadership skills, and the political environment - the fiscal situation, the executive's agenda, gubernatorial popularity, electoral results, and the partisan arrangement of the legislature.