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MN 2002 U.S. Senate Election Revisited: Norm Coleman and the St. Paul Vote

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In an interview on public radio this week, Al Franken mentioned that Norm Coleman lost all of his hometown St. Paul precincts in the 2002 election for U.S. Senate. Coleman was currently serving his last months as the mayor of St. Paul and had been elected as a Republican for his second term.

Franken is correct—Coleman lost all 104 precincts in St. Paul City—but this number is not too startling upon examination of how other Republicans fared in St. Paul during that election year.

  • For example, in US House races, the DFL also won every precinct in 2002, by an average of 470 votes per precinct.
  • The DFL also ran the table in State Senate races, by an average of 466 votes.
  • The DFL won every precinct as well in State House contests, by an average of 440 votes per precinct.
  • DFL-er Mike Hatch won every precinct in his re-election bid for Attorney General, by an average of 409 votes.

Coleman fared better than Republican candidates in each of these aforementioned offices. Though Coleman too lost each St. Paul precinct, he did so by an average of 338 votes.

However, Republicans fared much better than Coleman in St. Paul in races for the Offices of Secretary of State, State Auditor, and Governor.

  • Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer lost by an average of 257 votes per precinct, including a victory in 1 precinct.
  • State Auditor Patricia Anderson Awada also lost by an average of 257 votes per precinct, and was victorious in 1 of them.
  • But the Republican who fared the best in St. Paul was Tim Pawlenty. Pawlenty lost by an average of 251 votes per precinct in St. Paul, and, like Kiffmeyer and Awada, managed to win a single precinct. One could argue that Pawlenty benefited by Tim Penny's run on the Independence Party ticket that year, which perhaps diluted the DFL vote (and vice-versa). However, that is an inadequate explanation as Coleman ended up winning a much larger percentage of the statewide vote (49.5 percent) than did Pawlenty (44.3 percent). In sum, Pawlenty's performance in St. Paul was notably stronger than Coleman's.

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Remains of the Data

No Free Passes: States With 2 Major Party Candidates in Every US House Race

Indiana has now placed candidates from both major parties on the ballot in a nation-best 189 consecutive U.S. House races, with New Hampshire, Minnesota, Idaho, and Montana also north of 100 in a row.

Political Crumbs

Gubernatorial Highs and Lows

Two sitting governors currently hold the record for the highest gubernatorial vote ever received in their respective states by a non-incumbent: Republican Matt Mead of Wyoming (65.7 percent in 2010) and outgoing GOPer Dave Heineman of Nebraska (73.4 percent in 2006). Republican Gary Herbert of Utah had not previously won a gubernatorial contest when he notched a state record 64.1 percent for his first victory in 2010, but was an incumbent at the time after ascending to the position in 2009 after the early departure of Jon Huntsman. Meanwhile, two sitting governors hold the record in their states for the lowest mark ever recorded by a winning gubernatorial candidate (incumbent or otherwise): independent-turned-Democrat Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island (36.1 percent in 2010) and Democrat Terry McAuliffe of Virginia (47.8 percent in 2013).


An Idaho Six Pack

Two-term Idaho Republican Governor Butch Otter only polled at 39 percent in a recent PPP survey of the state's 2014 race - just four points ahead of Democratic businessman A.J. Balukoff. Otter's low numbers reflect his own struggles as a candidate (witness his weak primary win against State Senator Russ Fulcher) combined with the opportunity for disgruntled Idahoans to cast their votes for one of four third party and independent candidates, who collectively received the support of 12 percent of likely voters: Libertarian John Bujak, the Constitution Party's Steve Pankey, and independents Jill Humble and Pro-Life (aka Marvin Richardson). The six candidate options in a gubernatorial race sets an all-time record in the Gem State across the 46 elections conducted since statehood. The previous high water mark of five candidates was reached in seven previous cycles: 1902, 1904, 1908, 1912, 1914, 1966, and 2010.


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