District has shown strong support for Independence Party candidates over the past decade

In the first part of a series analyzing the upcoming special election to be held in Minnesota’s 26th Senate District next Tuesday to fill the seat of 6-term GOPer Dick Day, Smart Politics examines one of the factors that may come into play to thwart the GOP from holding onto one of its 21 seats through November.

The media has documented in depth in recent weeks the comments about Barack Obama and the Democratic Party made on Twitter by Republican nominee Mike Parry, a businessman and former City Council member from Waseca.

But one factor that has not been examined so closely is the strong third-party leanings of the 26th Senate District and how it might impact the race.

Those third-party leanings may come into play in Tuesday’s matchup that pitts Parry against DFLer and St. Olaf physics professor Jason Engbrecht and Independence Party candidate and 3-term Waseca Mayor Roy Srp.

· The 26th district, whose main cities include Owatonna, Waseca, and Faribault, was one of the strongholds back in 2002 for Independence Party gubernatorial nominee (and former 1st CD Representative) Tim Penny, who carried the district with 39.7 percent of the vote. Penny received only 16.2 percent of the vote statewide.

· In the 2002 race for Auditor, the Independence Party candidate Dave Hutcheson also cracked double digits in the 26th, winning 10.2 percent of the vote (while winning just 7.7 percent statewide).

· And in the recent 2008 U.S. Senate election, the district also gave a nice bump in support to Independence Party nominee Dean Barkley – who received 20.7 percent of the vote in the 26th SD. Barkley received 15.2 percent of the vote statewide.

Independence Party supporters may be looking for a strong performance by Srp to jump-start the Party as it tries to reclaim its relevance in the Gopher State this fall in the 2010 gubernatorial race.

And why would Srp’s appearance on the ballot possibly hurt Parry inordinately more than DFLer Engbrecht?

No doubt Democrats will likely characterize the Srp candidacy as one that may hinder Engbrecht from picking up the seat for DFL. However, as Smart Politics documented back in 2008 in an analysis of state House races – the Independence Party need not make any apologies to the DFL:

A Smart Politics study of 57 Minnesota state House races with IP candidates on the ballot from 2002 through 2006 found that at the district level, the presence of IP candidates on the ballot is correlated with a stronger performance by the DFL and a weaker performance by the GOP.

· In only 4 of these 57 districts did party control of the district flip from the previous election cycle – and in every instance it was from the GOP to the DFL.

· And while the Independence Party chose to run in nearly twice as many districts controlled by the DFL (64 percent) than the GOP (36 percent), the DFL had a stronger performance (measured by margin of victory) in 58 percent of these districts from the previous election cycle.

· The DFL also enjoyed a net gain (and the GOP a net loss) in each of these 3 election cycles in districts with IP candidates: an average DFL net gain of 0.4 points per district from 2000 to 2002, 3.0 points per district from 2002 to 2004, and 3.6 points per district from 2004 to 2006.

In this special election in the 26th on the 26th of January, an argument could be made that Srp may benefit at the margins both from Republicans who were turned off by Parry’s controversial comments as well as independents and conservative Democrats who are dissatisfied with the trajectory with which President Barack Obama has taken the Party over the past 12 months.

The 26th SD may not be a Massachusetts U.S. Senate special election, but it is an election political analysts in Minnesota will be watching closely.

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  1. Joe on January 20, 2010 at 12:49 pm

    By electing Mr. Srp you will be starting a great process of getting rid of partisan political gridlock and will actually start to get what needs to get done without people trying to keep their job and constantly run for re-election. An Independence Party Candidate will do what is best for the State as a whole rather than what is needed for that politician. Vote Independence Party and you will see a wonderfuld difference and you will see that things will get done that needs to get done.

  2. Minnesota Central on January 20, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    The election that should be cited is the 2004 for House District 26B … which obviously is within Senate District 26. Mike Corbin of the Independence Party garnered 795 votes which had to have an impact since the result was a 347 vote margin of victory for the DFL’s Patty Fritz.

    The Parry tweets should be a non-story … instead it should be his plan to cut state spending by 15%, a capital budget of $400 million which is less than half of what Governor Pawlenty proposed, willingness to sell nature parks, and poor attendance at Waseca City Council meetings.
    Parry’s implusive idea may be the reason why he only got 363 votes in his failed City Council re-election contest.

    Mr. Srp offers a wealth of experience including a stint as Waseca County Commissioner … and even he advocates a $1 billion dollar captial budget. Plus Mr. Srp is pro-life which is important to many voters.

    That said, Mr. Engbrecht is the one who stands out in the debates advocating responsible positions … some of which are not typical of a DFL candidate.

    If Mr. Engbrecht wins it will because of the issues
    … if Parry wins it will because of voters not fully understanding that his positions will force higher property taxes.

  3. Charlie Quimby on January 21, 2010 at 2:42 pm

    Maybe SD 26 is more Independence-oriented than average, but Penny was from Waseca and won there as a DFLer, so he might be expected to pull more strongly there regardless of his party affiliation.

    I think Srp, too, will pull more support because he was a well-known, long-time Mayor than because of party affiliation.

  4. Eric Ostermeier on January 21, 2010 at 3:05 pm

    > I think Srp, too, will pull more support because he was a
    > well-known, long-time Mayor than because of party affiliation.

    True, but all I-P candidates have a home town and come from somewhere in Minnesota. Frequently, however, they languish in the 3 to 5 percent range.

    For example, in the 2006 Gubernatorial contest you didn’t see Hutchinson pulling in big numbers in Minneapolis, or Twin Cities area, even though he had worked and lived there for years.

    So, yes, the difference is that SD 26 seems to be ‘more independent than average’ – and that was the point of the piece.

  5. being goode on January 22, 2010 at 11:01 pm

    Well played Eric!

  6. LuAnn (Smock) Suschank on January 23, 2010 at 7:37 pm

    I’m rooting for you Roy. You were a neighbor & classmate to me growing up and I always thought you were a great person——-LuAnn S.

  7. Minnesota Central on January 27, 2010 at 9:03 am

    Have you reviewed the SD-26 results to confirm the proposition that the MN-GOP would hurt by Mr. Srp’s participation ?

    Comparing Waseca precincts from the last regular SD election to the special election shows a larger drop-off in DFL support. (Note : Mr. Srp and the IP won that city whereas Mr. Parry and the MN-GOP won the District.)
    2006 : GOP 1780 votes DFL 1587 Total participation 3370 with 3 write-ins
    2008 : GOP 508 votes DFL 384 Total participation 1701 with 1 write-in but IP getting 808 votes.
    So while over half the voters still participated (which is much better than the overall district participation at 38.7%), the DFL only got 24.2% flowthrough support while the MN-GOP did slightly better at 28.5%.

    Note : Waseca is home turf for both Mr. Srp and Mr. Parry. Mr. Parry was soundly defeated in his 2008 Waseca City Council re-election campaign garnering only 363 votes … so he actually did better in the City overall than he did for his council seat.

    In this instance, the MN-GOP was able to get their voters to show up while the non-affiliated voters seemed to reject the DFL candidate.
    Your thoughts ?

  8. Artur on September 8, 2012 at 6:21 pm

    By electing Mr. Srp you will end up starting a great process of reducing partisan political gridlock and will actually begin to get what needs to have finished without people trying to preserve their job and constantly operate for re-election. An Independence Party Candidate will do what is best for the State overall rather than what is meant for that politician. Vote Independence Party and you will observe a wonderfuld difference and you will see that things will get done that must get done.

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