Government and International Relations Honors Papers

Document Type



MaryAnne Borelli

Publication Date



This paper is restricted to users on the Connecticut College campus until May 18, 2023.


This thesis examines executive orders issued in New York and Florida from January 1st, 2018 to July 4th, 2020 revealing how the COVID-19 pandemic led to an increased exercise of gubernatorial power by Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) of New York and Governor Ronald DeSantis (R) of Florida. Further, the pandemic hindered the functionality of the legislative and judicial branches, therefore granting governors even more power with few checks and balances available to the other branches. By examining governors of different states and ideologies, this analysis reveals that the increased use of discretionary emergency executive orders, in order to respond to COVID-19, was not confined to one party or state. The quantitative and qualitative analysis of early COVID-19 executive orders reveals important similarities and differences between Cuomo and DeSantis’ COVID-19 responses. The COVID-19 emergency elevated the status of both governors. For Cuomo, this has meant increased scrutiny and oversight even by Democrats. For DeSantis, this has meant increased support and status within the Republican Party. As this thesis is being submitted more than a year after the pandemic began, COVID-19 restrictions are beginning to ease yet the increased power which has been wielded by governors will not return to pre-pandemic conditions as easily or as quickly. For this reason, the lack of scholarly focus on governors in recent years makes understanding their role in the COVID-19 response even more important.



The views expressed in this paper are solely those of the author.