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Pathway to the Governor's Mansion in Minnesota, Part IV: Age

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Current crop of 2010 gubernatorial candidates is more 'seasoned' than Gopher State governors throughout history

(Previous installments of Smart Politics' 'Pathway to the Governor's Mansion' series include reports on the political experience, geographic background, and ethnic background of successful gubernatorial candidates in Minnesota history).

Do Minnesota voters go for camera-ready youthful looks or a more seasoned visage that symbolizes years of wisdom and experience? And which has been the more successful tool to create a pathway to St. Paul for gubernatorial candidates in the Gopher State?

As it turn out, Minnesotans have historically tended to elect fairly young gubernatorial candidates, according to a Smart Politics analysis of the 38 individuals who have become Governor dating back to statehood. However, while the average age of Minnesota's governors upon assuming office has been 44.3 years, the current batch of 2010 gubernatorial hopefuls come in at a much more 'seasoned' average age of 52.2 years - one year out from Election Day.

(Note: Eight Lieutenant Governors ascended into office due to death or resignation of their predecessor. Six of these were later elected into office. After adjusting the data to reflect the age of these individuals after their election into office, the average age was still a very similar 44.7 years. As such, the following analysis is based on the age at which these 38 men first became governor - elected or otherwise).

The youngest Governor in Minnesota history was Republican Harold Stassen, who took office in 1939 at the tender age of 31. A total of 11 men became governor while still in their 30s including Cushman Davis (35), Orville Freeman (36), J.A.A. Burnquist (36), Wendell Anderson (37), J.A.O. Preus (37), Horace Austin (38), C. Elmer Anderson (39), Floyd Olson (39), Adolph Eberhart (39), and William Merriam (39).

The oldest man to be elected to the state's highest office was the 15th Governor, Republican Samuel Van Sant, who, at 56 years and 7+ months was a few months older than Harold LeVander and Arne Carlson when they assumed office in 1967 and 1991 respectively. Five other individuals were in their 50s at the time they became Governor: Al Quie (55), Winfield Hammond (51), Elmer Andersen (51), Knute Nelson (50), and Luther Youngdahl (50).

Another 19 men became governor while in their 40s.

Age of Minnesota Governors Upon Assuming Office

#
Governor
Years
Age
39
Tim Pawlenty
2003-present
42
38
Jesse Ventura
1999-2003
47
37
Arne Carlson
1991-1999
56
34, 36
Rudy Perpich*
1976-1979, 1983-1991
48
35
Al Quie
1979-1983
55
33
Wendell Anderson
1971-1976
37
32
Harold LeVander
1967-1971
56
31
Kark Rolvaag
1963-1967
49
30
Elmer Andersen
1961-1963
51
29
Orville Freeman
1955-1961
36
28
C. Elmer Anderson*
1951-1955
39
27
Luther Youngdahl
1947-1951
50
26
Edward Thye*
1943-1947
46
25
Harold Stassen
1939-1943
31
24
Elmer Benson
1937-1939
41
23
Hjalmar Petersen**
1936-1937
46
22
Floyd Olson
1931-1936
39
21
Theodore Christianson
1925-1931
41
20
J.A.O. Preus
1921-1925
37
19
J.A.A. Burnquist*
1915-1921
36
18
Winfield Hammond
1915-1915
51
17
Adolph Eberhart*
1909-1915
39
16
John Johnson
1905-1909
43
15
Samuel Van Sant
1901-1905
56
14
John Lind
1899-1901
44
13
David Clough*
1895-1899
48
12
Knute Nelson
1893-1895
50
11
William Merriam
1889-1893
39
10
Andrew McGill
1887-1889
46
9
Lucius Hubbard
1882-1887
45
8
John Pillsbury
1876-1882
48
7
Cushman Davis
1874-1876
35
6
Horace Austin
1870-1874
38
5
William Marshall
1866-1870
40
4
Stephen Miller
1864-1866
48
3
Henry Swift**
1863-1864
40
2
Alexander Ramsey
1860-1863
44
1
Henry Sibley
1858-1860
47
* Denotes individuals who first became governor through resignation or death of their predecessor, but were later elected into office in their own right. ** Denotes individuals who were never elected into the governor's office. Source: Minnesota Historical Society, data compiled by Smart Politics.

But of the nearly 20 DFL and GOP candidates running (or exploring a run) for governor of the Gopher State in 2010, the average age is, at 52.2 years, nearly 8 years older than the historical average, still one year out from Election Day. There is no difference between the average age of the Republicans (52.2) and DFLers (52.3) who are currently in the mix.

GOPer Leslie Davis is the oldest candidate at 72, with Republican and former 8th Congressional District nominee Phil Herwig at 67, former DFL Senator Mark Dayton at 62, and former GOP Representative Bill Haas at 60.

Another eight 2010 candidates are in their 50s with 5 more in their 40s.

The two youngest candidates in the field are GOP State Representative Paul Kohls at 35 and former House Minority Leader Marty Siefert at 37.

Of course, the average life expectancy today is much longer than during the Gopher State's formative years.

Still, even examining only those governors elected in the modern era (1950+), the average age upon being sworn into office was still nearly 5.5 years younger (46.9 years) than the current crop of 2010 candidates. (The average age of those becoming governor from 1900-1949 was 42.8 years and from 1858-1899 was 43.7 years).

Age of Minnesota's 2010 DFL and Republican Gubernatorial Candidates

Candidate
Party
Age
Leslie Davis
GOP
72
Philip Herwig
GOP
67
Mark Dayton
DFL
62
Bill Haas
GOP
60
Tom Rukavina
DFL
59
David Hann
GOP
57
Steve Kelley
DFL
56
Susan Gaertner
DFL
55
Tom Bakk
DFL
55
R.T. Rybak
DFL
53
John Marty
DFL
52
Mike Jungbauer
GOP
51
Matt Entenza
DFL
48
Tom Emmer
GOP
48
Pat Anderson
GOP
43
Paul Thissen
DFL
42
Margaret Anderson Kelliher
DFL
41
Marty Seifert
GOP
37
Paul Kohls
GOP
35
Average
 
52.2
Data compiled by Smart Politics.

And how has age factored into head-to-head gubernatorial matchups? Smart Politics will explore this in Part 5 of its Pathways to the Governor's Mansion series.

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Previous post: Is Pawlenty Endorsement of Hoffman in NY-23 Contest the Death Knell for Liberal Republicans?
Next post: What Do the New Jersey and Virginia Gubernatorial Elections Mean? (And Are They Predictors of Midterms?)

2 Comments


  • Many gubernatorial candidates are older for 2010 than in the past years. Older candidates may have more experience but it is still good to have young governors it will open into fresh, new ideas and platform.

  • We don't need "fresh" ideas from young egomaniacs....give me an elder who has wisdom and who has some common sense.

    Having a culture where only youth is acceptable is a culture headed for more disaster....time to bring back wisdom and age!

  • Leave a comment


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