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GOP Has Historically Thrived in Minnesota State Senate Special Elections

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Despite recent losses, Republican Party has notched a substantially better record in State Senate special elections than the DFL

On Tuesday, in the Owatonna-Waseca-Faribault region, Minnesota's 26th Senate District will hold an election for the seat vacated by 6-term Republican Dick Day.

The race offers an opportunity for a DFL pick-up, with candidate Jason Engbrecht, or perhaps the biggest Independence Party victory in nearly a decade, with IP nominee Roy Srp.

Republicans, meanwhile, attempt to hold serve with candidate Mike Parry and retain a seat in the legislative body that they have failed to control since partisan ballot elections were instituted in 1974.

Towards that end, the GOP is hoping that if past is prologue, it is the long-view of history that is in play, and not the last few years.

For while the DFL has picked up four Senate seats since 2005 (SD 43 with Terri Bonoff, SD 15 with Tarryl Clark, SD 25 with Kevin Dahle, and SD 16 with Lisa Fobbe), these are the only seats in Senate special elections the Party has gained since 1974.

Republicans, however, have picked up more than three times as many Senate seats, and boast a winning percentage in all special election contests of 61.1 percent - more than 26 points higher than their success in general election Senate contests during the past 36 years (34.8 percent).

Here are the numbers:

· Since 1974, there have been 36 special election senate contests on the ballot in the Gopher State: 23 of these were previously held by the DFL and 13 by the GOP going into the election.

· Republicans have picked off 13 of these 23 DFL seats (56.5 percent) and held onto 9 of their 13 own seats (69.2 percent). Up until 2005, the Republicans had not lost a Senate seat in a special election race.

· The DFL, however, has only picked off 4 of these 13 Republican seats during this 36-year span (30.8 percent), and have held just 10 of their 23 seats (43.5 percent).

Victories in General vs. Special Minnesota State Senate Elections by Party, 1974-2008

Party
General #
General %
Special #
Special %
GOP
233
34.8
22
61.1
DFL
434
64.8
14
38.9
3rd
3
0.4
0
0.0
Minnesota Legislative Research Library data compiled by Smart Politics.

Overall, the Republican Party is 22 for 36 in special election Senate contests in the Gopher State. This 61.1 percent winning percentage is more than 26 points higher than the 233-437 record it has notched in general election contests since 1974 (34.8 percent).

The DFL, meanwhile, has struggled mightily in special election Senate races. The Party has won just 14 of 36 contests for a winning percentage of 38.9 percent - far below its general election Senate race winning percentage of 64.8 percent (434 victories, 236 losses).

Outcomes in Minnesota State Senate Special Elections, 1974-2008

Year
District
Outgoing
Incoming
2008
63
DFL (Dan Larson)
DFL (Ken Kelash)
2008
16
GOP (Betsy Wergin)
DFL (Lisa A. Fobbe)
2008
25
GOP (Tom Neuville)
DFL (Kevin Dahle)
2005
19
GOP (Mark Ourada)
GOP (Amy T. Koch)
2005
15
GOP (Dave Kleis)
DFL (Tarryl Clark)
2005
43
GOP (David Gaither)
DFL (Terri Bonoff)
2004
37
GOP (David Knutson)
GOP (Chris Gerlach)
2002
67
DFL (Randy Kelly)
DFL (Mee Moua)
2002
07
DFL (Sam Solon)
DFL (Yvonne Prettner Solon)
1999
04
DFL (David Ten Eyck)
DFL (Tony Kinkel)
1999
18
DFL (Janet Johnson)
DFL (Twyla Ring)
1999
32
DFL (Steve Morse)
GOP (Bob Kierlin)
1999
26
DFL (Tracy Beckman)
GOP (Don Ziegler)
1996
14
DFL (Joe Bertram)
GOP (Michelle Fischbach)
1995
33
GOP (Pat McGowan)
GOP (Warren Limmer)
1994
16
GOP (JoAnne Benson)
GOP (Dave Kleis)
1994
47
DFL (Bill Luther)
GOP (Don Kramer)
1994
31
GOP (Duane Benson)
GOP (Kenric Scheevel)
1994
19
DFL (Betty Adkins)
GOP (Mark Ourada)
1992
42
GOP (Don Storm)
GOP (Roy Terwilliger)
1990
61
DFL (Donna Peterson)
DFL (Carol Flynn)
1990
24
GOP (Glen Taylor)
GOP (Mark Piepho)
1988
48
DFL (Tad Jude)
GOP (Pat McGowan)
1988
37
DFL (Darril Wegscheid)
GOP (Pat Pariseau)
1987
04
DFL (Gerald Willet)
GOP (Robert Decker)
1985
08
GOP (James Ulland)
GOP (Jim Gustafson)
1981
20
DFL (Jim Nichols)
GOP (Randy Kamrath)
1980
16
DFL (Ed Schrom)
GOP (Ben Omann)
1980
66
DFL (John Chenoweth)
GOP (Emery Barrette)
1979
55
DFL (Eugene Stokowski)
DFL (Anne Stokowski)
1979
41
DFL (Robert Lewis)
DFL (Irving Stern)
1978
13
DFL (Win Borden)
GOP (David Rued)
1977
49
DFL (John Milton)
GOP (Delores Knaak)
1977
21
DFL (Alec Olson)
DFL (A. O. Setzepfandt)
1975
33
GOP (Harold Krieger)
GOP (Nancy Brataas)
1974
36
DFL (Jim Lord)
DFL (Robert Schmitz)
Party pick-ups in bold. Minnesota Legislative Research Library data compiled by Smart Politics.

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