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Younger Candidate More than Twice as Likely to Win Minnesota Gubernatorial Elections

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A study of Minnesota's 64 gubernatorial races finds younger candidate victorious more than 70 percent of the time

(This report is the sixth installment in Smart Politics' 'Pathway to the Governor's Mansion' Series. Past reports analyzed the political experience, geographic background, ethnic background, age (part 1), and astrological signs of successful gubernatorial candidates in Minnesota history).

Should Representative Marty Seifert end up with the GOP slot on the gubernatorial ballot next fall, he may very well be the favorite to win the election - and not necessarily due to his policy positions.

A Smart Politics analysis of the more than five dozen Minnesota gubernatorial elections since statehood finds that the younger candidate has defeated the older candidate in more than 70 percent of the contests.

Seifert, at age 37, is the youngest major party candidate in the 2010 gubernatorial field thus far. The other youngest candidates in the race are DFLers Margaret Anderson Kelliher (41) and Paul Thissen (43) and Republican Pat Anderson (43).

The success rate of younger gubernatorial candidates in the general election began to take hold in the late 1860s, and has been quite pronounced since the beginning of the 20th Century.

· Since 1926, the younger gubernatorial candidate has won 23 of 30 gubernatorial contests in Minnesota, or a success rate of 77 percent.

· Since 1904, the younger candidate has won 33 of 41 contests, or an 80 percent rate of victory.

(Note: the age of the second place challenger in one of Minnesota's 64 gubernatorial general elections could not be determined: Democrat E.O. Hamblin in 1861. This election was therefore excluded from the analyses in this report).

In these 33 such races since 1904, the younger (victorious) candidate was 9.5 years younger than the second place finisher on average. Since 1857, the winning gubernatorial candidate has been 4.2 years younger than the second place finisher on average.

The state's more recent political history has also borne out this general trend of the triumph of youth, with the younger candidate winning in 4 of the last 5 general election matchups:

· Tim Pawlenty was born 12 years later than Mike Hatch and 11 years later than Peter Hutchinson.
· Pawlenty was born 16 years after Roger Moe and 9 years after Tim Penny.
· Jesse Ventura was born 9 years after Skip Humphrey and 2 years after Norm Coleman.
· And while Arne Carlson was 22 years older than his 1994 challenger John Marty, he was 6 years younger than his 1990 opponent, incumbent Rudy Perpich.

Earlier in the 20th Century, during a remarkable stretch from 1904 through 1942, the younger candidate defeated the older candidate in 19 out of 20 Minnesota gubernatorial races - even though many of these more 'seasoned' candidates were political heavyweights:

· The younger Theodore Christianson defeated former U.S. Senator Magnus Johnson in 1926.
· Christianson also defeated the older former U.S. Representative (and future U.S. Senator) Ernest Lundeen in 1928.
· At just north of 30 years old, Harold Stassen defeated former Governor Elmer Benson in 1938.
· Stassen then defeated former Governor Hjalmer Peterson in 1940 and 1942 (Peterson was 17 years his elder).

The largest age difference in a general election gubernatorial matchup in the Gopher State was in 1918 when Republican J.A.A. Burnquist defeated Democrat David H. Evans, who was 27 years older.

That record would nearly be bested should the 2010 general election matchup end up with Representative Seifert, at age 37, on the Republican side of the ticket, and former U.S. Senator Mark Dayton, at age 62, on the DFL side - a difference of 25 years.

Age Differential of Minnesota Gubernatorial Election Winners and Losers, 1857-2006

Year
Winner
Born
Loser
Born
Diff.
1857
Henry Sibley
1811
Alexander Ramsey
1815
4
1859
Alexander Ramsey
1815
George L. Becker
1829
14
1861
Alexander Ramsey
1815
E.O. Hamblin
N/A
N/A
1863
Stephen Miller
1816
Henry T. Welles
1821
5
1865
William Marshall
1825
Henry M. Rice
1816
-9
1867
William Marshall
1825
Charles E. Flandrau
1828
3
1869
Horace Austin
1831
George L. Otis
1829
-2
1871
Horace Austin
1831
Winthrop Young
1817
-14
1873
Cushman Davis
1838
Ara Barton
1824
-14
1875
John Pillsbury
1827
David L. Buell
1831
4
1877
John Pillsbury
1827
William L. Banning
1814
-13
1879
John Pillsbury
1827
Edmund Rice
1819
-8
1881
Lucius Hubbard
1836
Richard W. Johnson
1827
-9
1883
Lucius Hubbard
1836
Adolph Biermann
1842
6
1886
Andrew McGill
1840
Albert Ames
1842
2
1888
William Merriam
1849
Eugene M. Wilson
1833
-16
1890
William Merriam
1849
Thomas Wilson
1827
-22
1892
Knute Nelson
1842
Daniel M. Lawler
1859
17
1894
Knute Nelson
1842
Sidney M. Owen
1838
-4
1896
David Clough
1846
John Lind
1854
8
1898
John Lind
1854
William H. Eustis
1845
-9
1900
Samuel Van Sant
1844
John Lind
1854
10
1902
Samuel Van Sant
1844
Leonard A. Rosing
1861
17
1904
John Johnson
1861
Robert C. Dunn
1855
-6
1906
John Johnson
1861
A.L. Cole
1848
-13
1908
John Johnson
1861
Jacob F. Jacobson
1849
-12
1910
Adolph Eberhart
1870
James Gray
1862
-8
1912
Adolph Eberhart
1870
Peter M. Ringdahl
1861
-9
1914
Winfield Hammond
1863
William E. Lee
1852
-11
1916
J.A.A. Burnquist
1879
Thomas P. Dwyer
1855
-24
1918
J.A.A. Burnquist
1879
David H. Evans
1852
-27
1920
J.A.O. Preus
1883
Henrik Shipstead
1881
-2
1922
J.A.O. Preus
1883
Magnus Johnson
1871
-12
1924
Theodore Christianson
1883
Floyd Olson
1891
8
1926
Theodore Christianson
1883
Magnus Johnson
1871
-12
1928
Theodore Christianson
1883
Ernest Lundeen
1878
-5
1930
Floyd Olson
1891
Raymond P. Chase
1880
-11
1932
Floyd Olson
1891
Earle Brown
1879
-12
1934
Floyd Olson
1891
Martin A. Nelson
1889
-2
1936
Elmer Benson
1895
Martin A. Nelson
1889
-6
1938
Harold Stassen
1907
Elmer Benson
1895
-12
1940
Harold Stassen
1907
Hjalmer Petersen
1890
-17
1942
Harold Stassen
1907
Hjalmer Petersen
1890
-17
1944
Edward Thye
1896
Byron G. Allen
1901
5
1946
Luther Youngdahl
1896
Harold H. Barker
1889
-7
1948
Luther Youngdahl
1896
Charles L. Halsted
1894
-2
1950
Luther Youngdahl
1896
Harry H. Peterson
1890
-6
1952
C. Elmer Anderson
1912
Orville Freeman
1918
6
1954
Orville Freeman
1918
C. Elmer Anderson
1912
-6
1956
Orville Freeman
1918
Ancher Nelsen
1904
-14
1958
Orville Freeman
1918
George MacKinnon
1906
-12
1960
Elmer Andersen
1909
Orville Freeman
1918
9
1962
Karl Rolvaag
1913
Elmer Andersen
1909
-4
1966
Harold LeVander
1910
Karl Rolvaag
1913
3
1970
Wendell Anderson
1933
Douglas M. Head
1930
-3
1974
Wendell Anderson
1933
John W. Johnson
1929
-4
1978
Al Quie
1923
Rudy Perpich
1928
5
1982
Rudy Perpich
1928
Wheelock Whitney
1926
-2
1986
Rudy Perpich
1928
Carl R. Ludeman
1951
23
1990
Arne Carlson
1934
Rudy Perpich
1928
-6
1994
Arne Carlson
1934
John Marty
1956
22
1998
Jesse Ventura
1951
Norm Coleman
1949
-2
2002
Tim Pawlenty
1960
Roger D. Moe
1944
-16
2006
Tim Pawlenty
1960
Mike Hatch
1948
-12
Note: Table compiles the age of the second place finisher in the "loser" column. Notable third place candidates in 2006 (Peter Hutchinson), 2002 (Tim Penny), 1998 (Skip Humphrey), 1942 (John D. Sullivan), 1938 (Thomas Gallagher), 1932 & 1934 (John E. Regan), 1930 (Edward Indrehus), 1924 (Carlos Avery), 1922 (Edward Indrehus), 1920 (L.C. Hodgson), 1894 (George L. Becker), and 1890 (Sidney M. Owen) were all older than the victorious candidate in that respective election. The age of notable third place candidates in 1918 (Fred E. Wheaton), 1926 (Alfred Jacques), 1928 (Andrew Nelson), and 1940 (Edward Murphy) could not be established. Data compiled by Smart Politics.

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