Democrats Dominating Minnesota Politics in Historic Fashion

All partisan statewide offices in Minnesota have been won by Democrats for two consecutive cycles for the first time in history

markdayton10.jpgWhile the 2014 election cycle saw Republicans make inroads nationally in many key state and federal races, that success was (mostly) blunted in Minnesota by a Democratic firewall.

Although the GOP did take back control of the State House, Democrats swept all constitutional offices, held onto two purportedly vulnerable U.S. House seats, and saw Al Franken get reelected to the U.S. Senate.

That marked the second consecutive midterm cycle in which the DFL swept all statewide offices on the ballot in the face of strong GOP winds nationwide.

But the results are even more noteworthy than that, and a signal that “purple” Minnesota might indeed be turning a distinct shade of blue.

A Smart Politics analysis finds that Minnesota Democrats swept all constitutional offices in back-to-back cycles for the first time in state history and now hold all statewide partisan offices for just the third time since statehood.

How unusual is it for Democrats in the Gopher State to run the table?

For starters, at the top of the ticket, Minnesota Democrats have won only 16 gubernatorial elections since statehood across 66 cycles.

That eliminates 50 cycles right from the start.

In the remaining 16 cycles, Democrats won every constitutional office on the ballot just three times: in 1974, during the post-Watergate Democratic landslide, 2010, and 2014.

In 1974, Wendell Anderson was reelected as governor along with Lieutenant Governor Rudy Perpich (with both offices on the same ticket for the first time).

Also victorious were incumbent Warren Spannaus for Attorney General, Jim Lord in the open seat contest for Treasurer, and Joan Growe and Bob Mattson who picked up seats for the party in races for secretary of state and auditor respectively.

The DFL also held both U.S. Senate seats (Hubert Humphrey and Walter Mondale), which were not on the ballot at that time to lay claim to all statewide partisan offices.

In 2010, Democrats picked up the open seat for governor/lieutenant governor (Mark Dayton/Yvonne Prettner Solon) with incumbents also winning races for secretary of state (Mark Ritchie), auditor (Rebecca Otto), and attorney general (Lori Swanson).

The party also controlled both U.S. Senate seats (Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken), though neither incumbent was up for election that cycle.

In 2014, Governor Dayton (along with new running mate Tina Smith for lieutenant governor), Auditor Rebecca Otto, and Attorney General Lori Swanson all won reelection with DFLer Steve Simon winning the open seat for secretary of state (with Franken winning reelection to remain in office with Klobuchar).

As such, the DFL sweeps in 2010 and 2014 mark the only time the party has won every partisan statewide election in back-to-back cycles in Minnesota history.

During the other 13 cycles during which Democrats won the governorship over the last 157 years, they lost at least one statewide office:

● 1857 (Henry Sibley): Democrats won seats for lieutenant governor, secretary of state, auditor, treasurer, Supreme Court (x3 seats), U.S. Senate (x2), and at-large U.S. House (x2); Republicans won the race for attorney general.

● 1898 (John Lind): Democrats lost all other statewide elections (lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, auditor, treasurer, clerk of Supreme Court, Supreme Court (x3), and U.S. Senate)

● 1904 (John Johnson): Democrats lost all other statewide elections (lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, treasurer, railroad & warehouse commissioner (x2), U.S. Senate, president, and Supreme Court (x3). A fourth victorious Supreme Court nominee was endorsed by both the Democratic and Republican parties).

● 1906 (John Johnson): Democrats lost all other statewide elections (lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, auditor, treasurer, railroad & warehouse commissioner, clerk of Supreme Court, Supreme Court justice, U.S. Senate)

● 1908 (John Johnson): Democrats lost all other statewide elections (lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, treasurer, railroad & warehouse commissioner (x2), president)

● 1914 (Winfield Hammond): Democrats lost all other statewide elections (lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, auditor, treasurer, railroad & warehouse commissioner, clerk of Supreme Court)

● 1954 (Orville Freeman): The DFL won elections for lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, treasurer, railroad & warehouse commissioner, clerk of Supreme Court, and U.S. Senate; Republicans won the race for state auditor.

● 1956 (Orville Freeman): The DFL won elections for lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, and railroad & warehouse commissioner; Republicans were victorious in races for treasurer and president.

● 1958 (Orville Freeman): The DFL won elections for lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, railroad & warehouse commissioner, and U.S. Senate; Republicans won races for auditor and treasurer.

● 1962 (Karl Rolvaag): The DFL were victorious in elections for lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, and railroad & warehouse commissioner; Republicans won races for auditor and treasurer.

● 1970 (Wendell Anderson): The DFL won elections for lieutenant governor, attorney general, public service commissioner, and U.S. Senate; Republicans won races for secretary of state, auditor, and treasurer.

● 1982 (Rudy Perpich): The DFL won elections for secretary of state, attorney general, and treasurer; Republicans were victorious in races for auditor and U.S. Senate.

● 1986 (Rudy Perpich): The DFL won elections for secretary of state, attorney general, and treasurer; Republicans won the statewide race for auditor.

Beginning with Al Franken and Barack Obama in 2008, Democrats have now rattled off a party record 13 consecutive statewide victories over the last four presidential and midterm election cycles.

While it is early to speculate, it seems unlikely that streak will be broken in the vote for president in 2016, where the party holds the longest Democratic statewide presidential winning streak outside of the South in party history at 10 in a row.

Republicans may have a better chance to blunt this DFL winning streak in 2018 with possible open seats for governor as well as auditor and attorney general where Otto and Swanson would each be finishing their 12th year in office.

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