Double-Take: Minnesotans Treated to More Congressional Rematches in 2018

Near-miss 2016 candidates are not going quietly into the political night in the Gopher State

This week’s announcement by Minnesota DFLer Angie Craig that she is going to run for Congress again this cycle brings to two the number of failed candidates who are seeking rematches against their 2016 political foes.

In last year’s race to replace the retiring John Kline, conservative radio host Jason Lewis defeated the former health care executive by just 1.8 points.

That was one of four competitive races for the office in the Gopher State in 2016. In one of the others – in greater Minnesota’s 7th CD – Republican Dave Hughes lost to long-serving Blue Dog Democrat Collin Peterson by 5.1 points.

Hughes announced he would seek a rematch last November just a few weeks after riding Donald Trump’s coattails in the rural district to what was nearly one of the biggest U.S. House upsets in the nation.

Based on their 2016 performances, both Craig and Hughes are frontrunners to receive their respective party’s nomination this cycle.

There might also be a third Minnesota U.S. House rematch election in 2018 in the state’s 8th CD. Stewart Mills III said earlier this year he has not ruled out a third consecutive attempt at unseating DFLer Rick Nolan in the Iron Range.

Mills lost to Nolan by just 0.56 points in 2016 – the ninth closest race across the nearly 600 elections conducted for the chamber in Minnesota since statehood.

Nolan recently announced he would not run for governor and instead seek a fourth term.

[The state could also have had a fourth rematch, with Jim Hagedorn running again for the 1st CD seat, except Congressman Tim Walz opted to launch a gubernatorial campaign instead of run for reelection].

Minnesota has averaged 1.3 U.S. House rematch elections over the last 80 cycles since statehood and has seen 20 rematches across the last 14 election cycles since 1990 (with only 2006 and 2010 not seeing a single one).

However, Craig and Hughes may need to recalibrate their expectations for 2018 because – as Mills can attest – it is a rarity for those seeking such a rematch in the Gopher State to find a different outcome the second (or third) time around.

Over the last quarter-century since 1992, just one of 20 challengers were successful in their rematch bid.

That took place in 2002 when John Kline turned 4.0 and 2.6-point losses to Bill Luther in the 6th CD in 1998 and 2000 respectively into an 11.1-point victory the third time around in the newly drawn 2nd CD.

Overall, there have been 106 rematches across the 589 elections to the chamber in Gopher State history.

Just 15 of these 106 have been successful, or one in seven, including six of 53 attempts since the DFL merger in 1944. In addition to Kline’s win in 2002, the remaining five are:

  • 1944 (3rd CD): DFLer William Gallagher defeated two-term Republican Richard Gale by 1.8 points after a third place showing and 30.9-point loss as a Democrat in 1942
  • 1948 (3rd CD): DFLer Roy Wier beat freshman GOPer George MacKinnon by 9.2 points after losing by 4.2 points in 1946
  • 1970 (7th CD): DFLer Bob Bergland defeated six-term Republican Odin Langen by 8.2 points after a 2.4-point loss in 1968
  • 1982 (6th CD): DFLer Gerry Sikorski beat two-term GOPer Arlen Erdahl following a 13.7-point defeat in the 1st CD four years prior in 1978
  • 1990 (7th CD): DFLer Collin Peterson unseated seven-term Republican Arlan Stangeland by 7.1 points after failed attempts to do so in 1984 (by 14.1 points) and 1986 (by 0.1 points)

Victorious challengers in rematches prior to the DFL merger were:

  • 1859 (At-large): Republican Cyrus Aldrich defeated freshman Democrat James Cavanaugh to win one of two at-large seats on a single ballot after coming up short in the previous cycle
  • 1880 (2nd CD): Former Republican Congressman Horace Strait beat freshman Democrat Henry Poehler by 13.4 points to win back his seat after enduring a 2.5-point loss in 1878
  • 1894 (3rd CD): Republican Joel Heatwole unseated two-term Democrat Osee Hall by 13.4 points one cycle after coming up 3.3 points short in 1892
  • 1906 (2nd CD): Democrat Winfield Hammond beat seven-term Republican James McCleary by 4.0 points some 14 years losing an open seat race to him by 18.4 points in 1892
  • 1922 (7th CD): Independent Ole Kvale knocked 10-term GOPer Andrew Volstead out of office with a decisive 19.4-point win after narrowly losing by 1.9 points in 1920
  • 1926 (8th CD): Farmer-Laborite William Carrs defeated two-term Republican Oscar Larson by 1.4 points after failing to beat him as a Democrat in 1920 (by 1.6 points) and 1922 (by 6.0 points)
  • 1938 (7th CD): Republican H. Carl Anderson beat five-term Farmer-Laborite Paul Kvale by 5.9 points after a 16.9-point loss in 1936
  • 1938 (8th CD): Former Congressman William Pittenger took his seat back from freshman Farmer-Laborite Paul Bernard with a 10.4-point win after seeing his second stint in the chamber come to an end with a 12.8-point loss in 1936
  • 1940 (2nd CD): Republican Joseph O’Hara defeated three-term Democrat Elmer Ryan by 6.5 points following a 7.7-point loss in 1938

The last time the state has seen as many as three rematches in a single cycle was in 2000 when Republican Gil Gutknecht defeated DFLer Mary Rieder in the 1st CD (after a previous 1996 matchup), DFLer Martin Sabo beat Republican Frank Taylor in the 5th CD (1998), and Luther beat Kline in the 6th CD (1998).

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