Minnesota Congressional Retirements: When It Rains, It Pours

Minnesota Democrats will have two open U.S. House seats for the first time in party history this cycle, but the state is no stranger to multiple retirements

Rick Nolan’s decision not to seek reelection to his 8th Congressional District seat in 2018 means the DFL now has to defend two competitive seats due to retirements from the chamber (along with gubernatorial candidate and party frontrunner Tim Walz of the 1st CD).

The dual retirements for the party is historic, marking the first time in history that two DFLers (or Democrats or Farmer-Laborites) have retired from the chamber in the same cycle.

It has been more uncommon than not for Minnesotans to see a single retirement in a given election cycle.

Across the 60 cycles since 1900, there have been 26 in which at least one Gopher State U.S. Representative exited via retiring from their seat compared to 34 in which none retired: 1900, 1906-1910, 1918, 1922, 1926-1930, 1938-1940, 1944-1956, 1960, 1964-1968, 1972, 1982-1988, 1996-2004, 2010, and 2012.

However, when a cycle has produced a retirement, it has often come in pairs (or more).

A total of 39 Minnesota U.S. House members have retired across these 26 cycles – 16 were the lone members to do so with 23 not seeking another term alongside another member.

Three cycles saw three U.S. Representatives retire:

  • 1902: Republicans Frank Eddy, Joel Heatwole, and R. Page Morris
  • 1924: Republicans Sydney Anderson, Oscar Larson, and Thomas Schall
  • 1974: DFLer John Blatnik and Republicans Ancher Nelsen, and John Zwach

While seven cycles found two members of the chamber exit via retirement:

  • 1914: Democrat Winfield Hammond and Republican James Manahan
  • 1936: Republican Theodore Christianson and Farmer-Laborite Ernest Lundeen
  • 1958: DFLer Eugene McCarthy and Republican Joseph O’Hara
  • 1978: DFLer Don Fraser and Republican Al Quie
  • 1994: DFLer Tim Penny and Republican Rod Grams
  • 2006: Republican Mark Kennedy and DFLer Martin Sabo
  • 2018: DFLers Rick Nolan and Tim Walz

Retirement speculation abounds each cycle for Collin Peterson of the 7th CD, but the Blue Dog Democrat will vie for his 15th term in the chamber in 2018 – postponing what Republicans hope is an inevitable takeover of his conservative-leaning congressional district.

The exits by Walz and Nolan (counted twice for his 1980 and 2018 exits) mark the 14th and 15th times Democrats/DFLers have not sought reelection to the U.S. House from Minnesota since statehood.

Eighteen left the chamber by losing reelection, three died in office, and one resigned mid-term.

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1 Comment on "Minnesota Congressional Retirements: When It Rains, It Pours"

  1. 1. It would behoove the national Democrats to (further) expand the playing field, so to speak; as I opined for an earlier piece, a handful of seats have had a habit of going against the nationwide trend, even when it is very strong (e.g. Rs lost 3 of their own in 2010 even as they flipped the chamber). At this (early) point, the seats held by departing members Jacky Rosen (“Henderson & South Clark County” of NV), Carol Shea-Porter (“Manchester & Southeast” of NH), and of course Walz and Nolan are deemed to be the ones most likely to deviate from the impending lavender tide.
    2. My surmise is that Representative Peterson plans to serve in the House until early January 2023; there may a chance that his current constituency – which plainly lacks a population linchpin – may well be divvied up between the Rochester- and Duluth-based constituencies, even if the state as a whole were not to lose a seat come 2021-22.

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