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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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