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Minnesota Republican Gubernatorial Primary Roundup

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The Minnesota Republican gubernatorial primary was the most competitive race since 1924 and the first ever to see four candidates reach the 20 percent mark

jeffjohnson10.jpegSmart Politics took a rare vacation last week when some fascinating primaries took place in my home state of Minnesota.

Before heading into a new week of politics and campaigns, here are some historical highlights that surfaced in the Gopher State's recent primary.

The top-billed race was of course the Republican Party's gubernatorial contest which turned out to be the party's most competitive race in 90 years.

The 6.4-point victory by Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson over State Representative Kurt Zellers was the narrowest since Theodore Christianson defeated Ole Jacobson by 2.8 points back in 1924.

Johnson won just 30.3 percent of the vote in the five-candidate field last Tuesday, which was also the lowest level of support notched by a winning GOP candidate for the governor's slot since Christianson in 1924 who won 22.8 percent of the vote with six candidates in the race.

With former State Representative Marty Seifert coming in at 21.1 percent and businessman Scott Honour landing at 20.8 percent, the 2014 primary marks the first time the GOP has seen four candidates for governor in Minnesota eclipse the 20 percent mark.

Only once prior had even three Republican gubernatorial candidates reached the 20 percent mark in a primary.

That happened in 1938 when Harold Stassen won the first of three consecutive nominations with 47.4 percent while Martin Nelson captured 29.4 percent and George Leach won 21.9 percent in a four-candidate field.

As a result, Honour now goes down in the history books with the best fourth-place primary showing for a Republican gubernatorial candidate in Minnesota - besting the 18.3 percent won by Curtis Johnson in the aforementioned 1924 barn burner. A small consolation prize, to be sure.

In contrast to the very competitive gubernatorial race, the Republican U.S. Senate primary ended as expected with a whimper.

Businessman Mike McFadden rolled over State Representative Jim Abeler by 57 points with 71.7 percent of the vote.

It has been 72 years since the last time a GOP U.S. Senate nominee won his party's nomination without a majority of the vote - and that came in a special primary.

In 1942, Arthur Nelson won 47.4 percent in a seven-candidate primary in the race to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Farmer-Laborite Ernest Lundeen.

Nelson was also the last GOPer to win a U.S. Senate nomination with a plurality for a six-year seat. That took place 86 years ago in 1928 when he won 42.2 percent of the primary vote against J.A.A. Burnquist and A.J. Rockne.

Overall, Minnesota Republican U.S. Senate nominees have emerged from the primary with an average of 82.6 percent of the vote since the end of World War II.

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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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