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Minnesota: Where Female Lieutenant Governors Reign

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Gopher State voters have elected a woman lieutenant governor more than any other state - eight times since 1982 - for a record 31 consecutive years in office and counting

yvonneprettnersolon10.jpgMinnesota Lieutenant Governor Yvonne Prettner Solon's decision not to join Mark Dayton's ticket in 2014 this week did not come as a surprise to many Capitol-watchers in St. Paul, and so the speculation now begins as to who will be the one-term incumbent's running mate this fall.

Early names to surface include former State Representative Tony Sertich, Dayton's Chief of Staff Tina Smith, and State Senate Assistant Majority Leader Katie Sieben.

Although two women are on that list, Prettner Solon's departure from elected office at the end of the term puts in jeopardy a remarkable streak in the state that dates back to the early 1980s.

A Smart Politics analysis finds that Minnesota holds the all-time record for the most women elected to the office of lieutenant governor in the nation as well as the most cumulative years served and the longest active streak.

Women have been elected to the position of lieutenant governor in Minnesota for eight consecutive election cycles dating back to 1982 when DFLer Marlene Johnson was victorious on Rudy Perpich's ticket.

Johnson won a second term in 1986 and served eight years followed by Republican Joanell Dyrstad (1991-1995, with Arne Carlson), Republican Joanne Benson (1995-1999, Carlson), the Independence Party's Mae Schunk (1999-2003, Jesse Ventura), Republican Carol Molnau (2003-2011, Tim Pawlenty) and Prettner Solon (2011-present).

This accomplishment stands in stark contrast to Minnesota's other streak in state electoral politics: Minnesota is one of just 10 states across the nation never to even nominate a woman to a major party gubernatorial slot - joining Georgia, Idaho, Mississippi, New York, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, and neighboring Wisconsin.

And now, at 31 years and counting, Minnesota holds both the active and all-time marks for consecutive years with a woman serving as lieutenant governor as well as the largest number of women to hold the position with six.

The Gopher State also owns the record for the largest cumulative number of years women have served as lieutenant governor - also 31 years.

Only one state comes close to these marks - Minnesota's neighbor to the south, Iowa.

Hawkeye State voters have elected female lieutenant governors in seven consecutive elections dating back to 1986 with Democrat Jo Ann Zimmerman (1987-1991), Republican Joy Corning (1991-1999), Democrat Sally Pederson (1999-2007), Democrat Patty Judge (2007-2011), and Republican Kim Reynolds (2011-present).

(Prior to 1998, the office was elected on a separate ballot in Iowa).

Unlike Prettner Solon, however, Reynolds is running for reelection in 2014 with Iowa Governor Terry Branstad officially announcing his bid for an unprecedented sixth four-year term this week.

Following Minnesota (31 years) and Iowa (27 years), Colorado is third with women serving for a total of 20 years as lieutenant governor in the Rocky Mountain State.

Connecticut ranks fourth (16.5 years and counting) followed by Michigan, New York and Oklahoma at #5 (16 years), Ohio at #8 (13 years), Wisconsin at #9 (12.7 years), and Nevada at #10 (12. 5 years).

After Minnesota (eight) and Iowa (seven), three states are tied for third with the largest number of cycles in which a woman was elected lieutenant governor: Colorado, Connecticut (including current Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman), and Vermont with five.

Michigan, New York, Oklahoma, Ohio, and Wisconsin have done so four times.

The Badger State (at 12.7 years and counting) currently sits third behind Minnesota (31 years) and Iowa (27 years) for the longest active streak of women holding the lieutenant governor's slot in their respective states.

Current Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch survived a recall election on a separate ballot from Scott Walker in Wisconsin back in 2012.

Indiana is fourth at 10.5 years and Rhode Island is fifth at seven years with Sue Ellspermann and Elizabeth Roberts currently serving in those two states respectively.

Overall, 78 women across 36 states have served as lieutenant governor, winning 105 elections and serving a collective 386 years.

Midwestern states dominate the top of the list tallying 38 percent of the years served (148.9) and winning 39 percent of these elections (41).

Five states do not have the office of lieutenant governor in their constitution (Arizona, Maine, New Hampshire, Oregon, and Wyoming) and the position is not elected by popular vote in two others (Tennessee and West Virginia, where the state senate speaker and president serve in the position respectively).

An additional seven states have not had a woman serve as lieutenant governor: Arkansas, California, Georgia, Idaho, Texas, Virginia, and Washington. (Mona Pasquil served as acting lieutenant governor in California at the end of the Schwarzenegger administration).

As for the prospects of Minnesota continuing its streak in 2014, even if Governor Dayton does not select a woman for his next running mate that doesn't mean there will not be a female lieutenant governor in St. Paul in January 2015.

It is also possible that the eventual Republican gubernatorial nominee also selects a woman for the slot and wins next November.

Recent Minnesota electoral history has seen multiple female lieutenant gubernatorial candidates on the same ballot.

During the eight-cycle span since 1982, eight additional female nominees for lieutenant governor with major party status in the Gopher State were defeated at the ballot box:

· Two-term DFL Lieutenant Governor Marlene Johnson on Governor Rudy Perpich's ticket in 1990
· DFL nominee Nancy Larson on John Marty's ticket in 1994
· Republican State Senator Gen Olson on Norm Coleman's ticket in 1998
· DFL State Senator Julie Sabo on Roger Moe's ticket in 2002
· Republican State Senator Martha Robertson on Independence Party gubernatorial nominee Tim Penny's ticket in 2002
· Former Republican-turned-DFL State Auditor Judi Dutcher on Mike Hatch's ticket in 2006
· Independence Party nominee Maureen Reed on Peter Hutchinson's ticket in 2006
· Republican Annette Meeks on Tom Emmer's ticket in 2010

Most Years with Female Lieutenant Governors in Office by State

Rank
State
# Served
# Elections won
Total years
1
Minnesota
6
8
31*
2
Iowa
5
7
27*
3
Colorado
4
5
20
4
Connecticut
3
5
16.5*
5
Michigan
3
4
16
5
New York
3
4
16
5
Oklahoma
2
4
16
8
Ohio
4
4
13*
9
Wisconsin
3
4
12.7*
10
Nevada
3
3
12.5
11
Hawaii
2
3
12
12
Louisiana
2
3
12
12
Massachusetts
3
3
12
12
Mississippi
2
3
12
15
Utah
1
3
11.8
16
Indiana
3
3
10.5*
17
North Dakota
2
3
10.2
18
Vermont
3
5
10
19
Alaska
1
2
8
19
Delaware
1
2
8
19
Kentucky
2
2
8
19
Maryland
1
2
8
19
Nebraska
2
2
8
19
New Mexico
1
2
8
19
North Carolina
1
2
8
19
South Dakota
1
2
8
27
Alabama
2
2
7*
27
Illinois
2
2
7*
27
Rhode Island
1
2
7*
30
Florida
2
1
6.9*
31
Pennsylvania
1
2
5.8
32
New Jersey
1
2
4*
32
Missouri
1
1
4
32
Montana
1
1
4
32
South Carolina
2
1
4
36
Kansas
1
1
1.5
* And counting (denotes states with a woman currently serving as Lt. Gov). Table compiled by Smart Politics.

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