Johnson vs Dayton: Out with the Old, In with the Young?

Dayton bucked history in 2010: the younger Minnesota gubernatorial nominee has been victorious at more than twice the rate as the older nominee since statehood

markdayton10.jpgThe oldest governor in Minnesota history will square off against a Republican nominee nearly 20 years his junior this November.

DFLer Mark Dayton (born in 1947) will try to defeat a much younger GOP opponent for the second consecutive cycle – having narrowly dispatched with Tom Emmer (1961) four years ago.

Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson is 47 years old, while Dayton, at 67 years, 7 months, 16 days through Thursday, is already the oldest Minnesotan to serve in the position of governor by more than three years – and hopes to be the first to reach the age of 70.

Throughout Minnesota history, younger gubernatorial candidates have generally thrived on Election Day compared to their more seasoned counterparts, winning more than twice as many contests – 44 victories against 21 defeats (68 percent).

When the age difference between the major candidates has been at least 10 years, as it will be in 2014, the younger candidate has defeated the older one in 21 of 29 cycles, or 72 percent of the time.

With an age difference of 19 years, 9 months, and 16 days, the Dayton vs. Johnson matchup features the 6th biggest age gap between the top tier gubernatorial nominees across the 66 such contests in Minnesota history.

The largest age difference in a general election gubernatorial matchup in the Gopher State was in 1918 when Republican J.A.A. Burnquist (born in 1879) defeated Democrat David Evans (1852), who was 27 years his elder.

Two years prior, Burnquist was also 24 years younger than Democrat Thomas Dwyer (1852), who he also defeated.

The only other Minnesota gubernatorial contests with bigger age gaps than Johnson vs. Dayton were:

● 1986: DFLer Rudy Perpich (born 1928) and Republican Carl Ludeman (1951) at 23 years
● 1994: Republican Arne Carlson (1934) and DFLer John Marty (1956) at 22 years
● 1890: Republican William Merriam (1849) and Democrat Thomas Wilson (1827) at 22 years.

Dayton became Minnesota’s oldest governor shortly after taking office on May 12, 2011.

On that day, Dayton was 64 years, 3 months, 12 days old – one day older than Republican Arne Carlson when he left office in January 1999.

Only three other Gopher State governors have reached the age of 60 while in office:

● DFLer Rudy Perpich exited office during his second stint in 1991 at the age of 62 years, 6 months, 11 days
● Republican Samuel Van Sant left office in 1905 at 60 years, 7 months, 24 days
● Republican Harold LeVander completed his first and only term in 1971 at 60 years, 2 months, 25 days

The average age of Minnesota governors upon exiting office since statehood has been a shade over 49 years.

The advantage of youth at the ballot box has seemingly lessened in recent decades, with the older nominee winning in six of the last 14 contests: in 1960 (Elmer Andersen), 1966 (Harold LeVander), 1978 (Al Quie), 1986 (Rudy Perpich), 1994 (Arne Carlson), and 2010 (Dayton).

However, during a remarkable stretch from 1904 through 1942, the younger candidate defeated the older candidate in 19 out of 20 Minnesota gubernatorial races – even though many of these elder candidates were political heavyweights:

● 1926: Republican Theodore Christianson (born in 1883) defeated former U.S. Senator Magnus Johnson (1871)
● 1928: Christianson also defeated the older former U.S. Representative (and future U.S. Senator) Ernest Lundeen (1878)
● 1938: At just north of 30 years old, Republican Harold Stassen (1907) defeated former Governor Elmer Benson (1895)
● 1940 & 1942: Stassen defeated former Governor Hjalmer Peterson (1890)

The aforementioned Stassen holds the mark for being the youngest governor in Minnesota history to enter (31 years, 8 months, 20 days) and leave (36 years, 14 days) office.

If reelected, Dayton will be 71 years, 11 months, 12 days at the end of his second term in January 2019.

Dayton and Johnson will be joined on the ballot in November by Independence Party nominee Hannah Nicollet, Libertarian Chris Holbrook, and Grassroots candidate Chris Wright.

Oldest Governors in Minnesota History

Rank
Governor
Party
Born
Left Office
Age Left Office
1
Mark Dayton
DFL
Jan 26, 1947
In office
67 yrs, 7 months, 16 days
2
Arne Carlson
Republican
Sep 24, 1934
Jan 4, 1999
64 yrs, 3 months, 11 days
3
Rudy Perpich*
DFL
June 27, 1928
Jan 7, 1991
62 yrs, 6 months, 11 days
4
Samuel Van Sant
Republican
May 11, 1844
Jan 4, 1905
60 yrs, 7 months, 24 days
5
Harold LeVander
Republican
Oct 10, 1910
Jan 4, 1971
60 yrs, 2 months, 25 days
6
Al Quie
Republican
Sep 18, 1923
Jan 3, 1983
59 yrs, 3 months, 16 days
7
Luther Youngdahl
Republican
May 29, 1896
Sep 27, 1951
55 yrs, 3 months, 29 days
8
John Pillsbury
Republican
Jul 29, 1827
Jan 10, 1882
54 yrs, 5 months, 12 days
9
Elmer Andersen
Republican
June 17, 1909
Mar 20, 1963
53 yrs, 9 months, 3 days
10
Karl Rolvaag
DFL
July 18, 1913
Jan 2, 1967
53 yrs, 5 months, 15 days
11
Winfield Hammond
Democrat
Nov 17, 1863
Dec 30, 1915
52 yrs, 1 month, 13 days
12
David Clough
Republican
Dec 27, 1846
Jan 2, 1899
52 yrs, 6 days
13
Knute Nelson
Republican
Feb 2, 1843
Jan 31, 1895
51 yrs, 11 months, 29 days
14
Jesse Ventura
Reform
July 15, 1951
Jan 6, 2003
51 yrs, 5 months, 22 days
15
Lucius Hubbard
Republican
Jan 26, 1836
Jan 5, 1887
50 yrs, 11 months, 10 days
16
Edward Thye
Republican
Apr 26, 1896
Jan 8, 1947
50 yrs, 8 months, 13 days
17
Tim Pawlenty
Republican
Nov 27, 1960
Jan 3, 2011
50 yrs, 1 month, 7 days
18
Stephen Miller
Republican
Jan 7, 1816
Jan 8, 1866
50 yrs, 1 day
19
Andrew McGill
Republican
Feb 19, 1840
Jan 9, 1889
48 yrs, 10 months, 21 days
20
Henry Sibley
Democrat
Feb 20, 1811
Jan 2, 1860
48 yrs, 10 months, 13 days
21
John Johnson
Democrat
Jul 28, 1861
Sep 21, 1909
48 yrs, 1 month, 24 days
22
Alexander Ramsey
Republican
Sep 8, 1815
Jul 10, 1863
47 yrs, 10 months, 2 days
23
Theodore Christianson
Republican
Sep 12, 1883
Jan 6, 1931
47 yrs, 3 months, 25 days
24
Hjalmar Petersen
F-L
Jan 2, 1890
Jan 4, 1937
47 yrs, 2 days
25
John Lind
Democrat
Mar 25, 1854
Jan 7, 1901
46 yrs, 9 months, 13 days
26
Floyd Olson
F-L
Nov 13, 1891
Aug 22, 1936
44 yrs, 9 months, 9 days
27
Adolph Eberhart
Republican
Jun 23, 1870
Jan 5, 1915
44 yrs, 6 months, 13 days
28
William Marshall
Republican
Oct 17, 1825
Jan 9, 1870
44 years, 2 months, 23 days
29
Wendell Anderson
DFL
Feb 1, 1933
Dec 29, 1976
43 yrs, 10 months, 28 days
30
William Merriam
Republican
Jul 26, 1849
Jan 4, 1893
43 yrs, 5 months, 9 days
31
Elmer Benson
F-L
Sep 22, 1895
Jan 2, 1939
43 yrs, 3 months, 11 days
32
C. Elmer Anderson
Republican
Mar 16, 1912
Jan 5, 1955
42 yrs, 9 months, 20 days
33
Orville Freeman
DFL
May 9, 1918
Jan 2, 1961
42 yrs, 7 months, 24 days
34
Horace Austin
Republican
Oct 15, 1831
Jan 7, 1874
42 yrs, 2 months, 23 days
35
J.A.A. Burnquist
Republican
Jul 21, 1879
Jan 5, 1921
41 yrs, 5 months, 15 days
36
J.A.O. Preus
Republican
Aug 28, 1883
Jan 6, 1925
41 yrs, 4 months, 9 days
37
Henry Swift
Republican
Mar 23, 1823
Jan 11, 1864
40 yrs, 9 months, 19 days
38
Cushman Davis
Republican
Jun 16, 1838
Jan 7, 1876
37 yrs, 6 months, 22 days
39
Harold Stassen
Republican
Apr 13, 1907
Apr 27, 1943
36 yrs, 14 days

* Denote age Perpich left office after his second stint in 1991. Table compiled by Smart Politics.

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