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Democratic Gubernatorial Drought in Minnesota Is 3rd Longest in the Nation

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Politically schizophrenic Gopher State's 23-year dry spell without a DFL gubernatorial victory trails only GOP strongholds of South Dakota and Utah for longest in the U.S.

The first substantive chatter about Governor Tim Pawlenty's presidential prospects began in earnest after the 2006 election, when Pawlenty impressed national observers by being one of the few vulnerable Republicans to stave off defeat during the Democratic tsunami that November.

Analysts (and DFL loyalists) have offered a number of theories to explain Pawlenty's '06 victory, such as DFLer Mike Hatch's perceived implosion during the last few days of his campaign, Independence Party nominee Peter Hutchinson's arguably siphoning off 'Democratic votes' from Hatch's column, and Governor Pawlenty's own political moxy.

Whatever the reason for Pawlenty's survival, the GOP's victory in 2006 extended by four more years a Democratic drought in gubernatorial contests in Minnesota that a Smart Politics analysis has found to be tied for the third longest in the nation.

The current 23-year drought endured by the DFL since Rudy Perpich was elected Governor of Minnesota in 1986 is eclipsed only by the Democratic dry spells in the conservative states of South Dakota (35 years, 1974) and Utah (29 years, 1980).

Connecticut is tied with the Gopher State for third, with its most recent Democratic governor, William O'Neill, also last elected in 1986.

The fact that the Democratic Party's struggle to gain control of the governor's mansion in Minnesota is being mentioned in the same breath with states like Utah and South Dakota highlights the schizophrenic nature of politics in the Gopher State - Minnesota also has the current longest streak across the 50 states in casting its electoral votes for the Democratic presidential nominee (nine contests, dating back to 1976).

But the DFL now finds itself in the same company with its Democratic brethren in the neighboring red states of South Dakota and North Dakota.

Together these states comprise three of the top five longest streaks in the country for gubernatorial elections without a Democratic winner (79 years collectively).

North Dakota has not elected a Democrat to its governor's mansion since George Sinner in 1988.

And of the seven states in the nation with the longest Democratic gubernatorial droughts, only Minnesota and Connecticut voted for Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential contest. John McCain carried South Dakota by 8.4 points, Utah by 28.0 points, North Dakota by 8.7 points, Idaho by 25.3 points, and Texas by 11.8 points.

Number of Years Since Democratic Party Last Won Gubernatorial Election by State

Rank
State
Governor
Elected
Years
1
South Dakota
Richard F. Kneip
1974
35
2
Utah
Scott Milne Matheson
1980
29
3
Minnesota
Rudy Perpich
1986
23
3
Connecticut
William O'Neill
1986
23
5
North Dakota
George Sinner
1988
21
6
Idaho
Cecil D. Andrus
1990
19
6
Texas
Ann Richards
1990
19
8
Rhode Island
Bruce Sundlun
1992
17
9
Florida
Lawton Chiles
1994
15
9
Nebraska
Ben Nelson
1994
15
9
Nevada
Bob Miller
1994
15
12
Alabama
Don Siegelman
1998
11
12
Alaska
Tony Knowles
1998
11
12
Georgia
Roy Barnes
1998
11
12
Hawaii
Ben Cayetano
1998
11
12
South Carolina
James Hovis Hodges
1998
11
17
Mississippi
Ronnie Musgrove
1999
10
18
Indiana
Frank O'Bannon
2000
9
19
Vermont
Howard Dean
2000
9
19
California
Gray Davis
2002
7
21
Louisiana
Kathleen Blanco
2003
6
22
New Jersey
John Corzine
2005
4
22
Virginia
Tim Kaine
2005
4
24*
Arizona
Janet Napolitano
2006
3
24*
Arkansas
Mike Beebe
2006
3
24*
Colorado
Bill Ritter
2006
3
24*
Illinois
Rod Blagojevich
2006
3
24*
Iowa
Chet Culver
2006
3
24*
Kansas
Kathleen Sebelius
2006
3
24*
Maine
John Baldacci
2006
3
24*
Maryland
Martin O'Malley
2006
3
24*
Massachusetts
Deval Patrick
2006
3
24*
Michigan
Jennifer Granholm
2006
3
24*
New Mexico
Bill Richardson
2006
3
24*
New York
Eliot Spitzer
2006
3
24*
Ohio
Ted Strickland
2006
3
24*
Oklahoma
Brad Henry
2006
3
24*
Oregon
Ted Kulongoski
2006
3
24*
Pennsylvania
Ed Rendell
2006
3
24*
Tennessee
Phil Bredesen
2006
3
24*
Wisconsin
Jim Doyle
2006
3
24*
Wyoming
Dave Freudenthal
2006
3
43*
Kentucky
Steve Beshear
2007
2
44*
Delaware
Jack Markell
2008
1
44*
Missouri
Jay Nixon
2008
1
44*
Montana
Brian Schweitzer
2008
1
44*
New Hampshire
John Lynch
2008
1
44*
North Carolina
Beverly Perdue
2008
1
44*
Washington
Christine Gregoire
2008
1
44*
West Virginia
Joe Manchin
2008
1
* Denotes state in which Democratic Party won its most recent gubernatorial election. Data compiled by Smart Politics.

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Remains of the Data

Who Has Won the Most Votes in US Senate Electoral History?

Only three of the Top 10 and nine of the Top 50 vote-getters of all time are currently serving in the chamber.

Political Crumbs

Six for Thirteen

Collin Peterson remarked last month that he is leaning to run for reelection to Minnesota's 7th Congressional District in 2016. If he does and is victorious, he will creep even closer to the top of the list of the longest-serving U.S. Representatives in Minnesota history. The DFL congressman is only the sixth Minnesotan to win at least 13 terms to the U.S. House of the 135 elected to the chamber in state history. Peterson trails 18-term DFLer Jim Oberstar (1975-2011), 16-term Republicans Harold Knutson (1917-1949) and August Andresen (1925-1933; 1935-1958), and 14-term DFLers Martin Sabo (1979-2007) and John Blatnik (1947-1974). Andresen died in office, Sabo and Blatnik retired, and Knutson and Oberstar were defeated at the ballot box in 1948 and 2010 respectively. At 70 years, 7 months, 11 days through Monday, Peterson is currently the ninth oldest Gopher State U.S. Representative in history. DFLer Rick Nolan of the 8th CD is the seventh oldest at 71 years, 1 month, 23 days.


Seeing Red

Congressman Nick Rahall's failed bid for a 20th term in West Virginia this cycle, combined with a narrow loss by Nick Casey to Alex Mooney in Shelley Moore Capito's open seat, means that West Virginia Democrats will be shut out of the state's U.S. House delegation for the first time in over 90 years. The Republican sweep by two-term incumbent David McKinley in the 1st CD, Mooney in the 2nd, and Evan Jenkins over Rahall in the 3rd marks the first time the GOP has held all seats in the chamber from West Virginia since the Election of 1920. During the 67th Congress (1921-1923) all six seats from the state were controlled by the GOP. Since the Election of 1922, Democrats have won 76 percent of all U.S. House elections in the Mountain State - capturing 172 seats compared to 54 for the GOP.


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