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Third Parties Leave Footprints in Minnesota's 2010 U.S. House Contests

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Votes for third party candidates eclipse 5 percent in six congressional districts; most since DFL merger in 1944

While the number of third party and independent candidates in U.S. House races nationally spiked to their largest midterm election mark since 1934, such candidates also left one of their greatest collective footprints in the Gopher State since the DFL merger in 1944.

A Smart Politics analysis of election returns since the early 1940s finds that the 5 percent mark notched by third party and independent candidates on Election Day across six congressional districts in Minnesota was the largest such number since 1942, the last election cycle before the DFL merger.

The five percent threshold was eclipsed in the state's 1st (6.6 percent), 4th (6.1 percent), 5th (8.1 percent), 6th (7.6 percent), 7th (7.1 percent), and 8th (5.2 percent) congressional districts.

The last time major parties shed this level of support across so many districts was in 1942, when Farmer-Laborites reached double-digits in seven of the state's then nine districts, winning one seat (Harold Hagen in the 9th CD, with 50.4 percent) and coming in second place in four others (the 3rd CD, 4th CD, 5th CD, and 8th CD).

Two candidates also set the highest mark for third parties and independents in two Congressional Districts during the post-merger era, throughout the districts' various geographic configurations.

In the 1st Congressional District, Independence Party nominee Steven Wilson won 5.34 percent of the vote, in a race two-term DFL incumbent Tim Walz won by 5.29 percent.

The largest previous support for a third party candidate in the 1st CD across the last 35 election cycles dating back to 1944 was the 4.8 percent won by Gregory Mikkelson in 2004 when Republican Gil Gutknecht won his final term in D.C.

The average third party vote total in the 1st CD during these 35 cycles is just 0.7 percent, the second lowest in the state - with major party candidates the only option on the ballot in 25 of these contests.

Party Free candidate Lars Johnson also won 1.2 percent for a collective 6.6 percent in the 1st CD - the largest total support for third party candidates in the 1st since 1942.

In the 7th Congressional District race, Independent Gene Waldorf (a former DFL State Representative and Senator) won 3.9 percent of the vote - the largest tally in that district in a general election race since 1942.

(American Party candidate James Born won 4.9 percent in 1977's special election to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Democrat Bob Bergland to become the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture under Jimmy Carter).

The previous general election high for the 7th CD was 3.2 percent - won by Ronald Holmquist of the American Party in 1978.

Independence Party candidate (and two-time 7th CD GOP nominee) Glen Menze won an additional 3.3 percent for a 7.1 percent overall total for the district - also the largest cumulative non-major party vote in the 7th since 1942.

The average third party vote total in the 7th CD during these 35 cycles is just 0.4 percent, the lowest in the state - with major party candidates the only option on the ballot in 28 elections.

In addition to Wilson and Waldorf, leading third party and independent candidates in Minnesota's other districts were Independence Party nominees Steve Carlson in the 4th CD with 6.1 percent, Bob Anderson in the 6th CD with 5.8 percent, Jon Oleson in the 3rd CD with 4.6 percent, and Timothy Olson in the 8th CD with 4.3 percent, and independent Lynne Torgeson in the 5th CD with 3.7 percent.

Overall, voters in the 5th CD have demonstrated the largest support for third party and independent candidates since the DFL merger, averaging 3.2 percent per cycle, buoyed in part by the best third party showing in the state since 1944 - Independence Party nominee Tammy Lee's 21.0 percent in 2006.

The large number of third party and independent candidates in Minnesota's congressional elections in 2010 mirrored the national trend, with the Gopher State seeing the most such candidates to run in any midterm election cycle since the DFL merger in 1944.

When examining the average per-district vote for third party candidates, the 5.7 percent tally in 2010 ranks third in the post-merger era, behind the presidential election years of 1992 (6.9 percent) and 2000 (6.0 percent).

Cumulative Vote for Minnesota 3rd Party and Independent U.S. House Candidates by District, 1944-2010

Year
1st
2nd
3rd
4th
5th
6th
7th
8th
9th
Ave
2010
6.6
0.0
4.6
6.1
8.1
7.6
7.1
5.2
 
5.7
2008
4.5
0.0
10.6
0.0
6.9
10.0
0.0
0.0
 
4.0
2006
0.0
3.7
0.0
0.0
23.0
7.8
1.3
1.9
 
4.7
2004
4.8
3.2
0.0
9.2
5.7
0.0
0.0
2.5
 
3.2
2002
3.7
4.3
0.0
3.7
7.0
7.5
0.0
0.0
 
3.3
2000
1.9
3.9
2.5
21.1
8.0
2.4
2.1
6.4
 
6.0
1998
0.0
4.1
4.5
6.4
5.4
4.0
0.0
7.4
 
4.0
1996
0.0
3.9
0.0
6.2
7.0
0.0
0.0
7.3
 
3.1
1994
0.0
3.0
0.0
2.9
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
 
0.7
1992
0.0
4.4
2.9
5.7
8.9
22.4
0.0
11.0
 
6.9
1990
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
 
0.0
1988
0.4
0.0
0.0
0.7
2.7
0.0
0.0
0.0
 
0.5
1986
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
1.4
0.0
0.7
0.0
 
0.3
1984
0.0
0.0
0.0
1.3
3.3
0.0
0.0
0.6
 
0.7
1982
0.9
0.0
1.5
0.0
5.1
0.0
0.0
0.0
 
0.9
1980
0.0
0.0
0.0
1.0
3.2
0.0
0.0
1.6
 
0.7
1978
1.3
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
3.2
12.7
 
2.2
1976
1.3
0.0
2.0
3.8
3.3
0.0
1.3
0.0
 
1.5
1974
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
1.5
0.0
0.0
11.8
 
1.7
1972
0.0
0.0
5.8
0.0
9.8
0.0
0.0
0.0
 
2.0
1970
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.5
0.9
0.0
0.0
 
0.2
1968
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.7
0.0
0.0
0.0
 
0.1
1966
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
 
0.0
1964
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
 
0.0
1962
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.3
0.0
0.0
0.0
 
0.0
1960
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
1958
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
1956
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
1954
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
1952
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
1950
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
1.1
0.0
0.0
0.0
4.6
0.6
1948
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
1946
0.0
0.0
1.2
1.3
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.3
1944
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
2.5
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.3
Ave
0.7
0.9
1.0
2.0
3.2
1.8
0.4
2.0
0.1
1.5
Note: Excludes scattering/write-in votes. Table compiled by Smart Politics from data culled from the Minnesota Secretary of State and Office of the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives.

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