Minnesota Republicans Eye Party’s Largest Gubernatorial Primary Field in 2022
More than 10 candidates are campaigning for the Republican nomination – how many will file after the nominating convention?
A straw poll of Republican gubernatorial hopefuls in precinct caucuses on Tuesday highlighted the large field vying for the GOP nomination to take on Governor Tim Walz.
Former state Senator Scott Jensen emerged on top with a plurality of 38 percent, but four other candidates received double-digit support: state Senator Paul Gazelka, physician Neil Shah, army veteran and business executive Kendall Qualls, and Lexington Mayor Mike Murphy. State Senator Michelle Benson was a few points shy of the 10 percent mark.
A handful of other lesser-known candidates have launched campaigns in recent months as did former state Representative and Hennepin County Sheriff Rick Stanek this week.
All told, 11 Minnesotans have declared they are seeking the Republican nomination.
And while some of these candidates may end up not filing for the office after the state nominating convention in mid-May, there is still a good chance Republican voters will have more options on August 9th than in any of the previous 40 gubernatorial primaries in state history.
Since the first primary for governor in 1912, Minnesota Republicans have seen a party-record six candidates compete in the primary seven times – but only once in the past 70 years.
Two of these primaries ended up with the most narrowly decided GOP contests for the office in Minnesota history.
In 1920, (party-backed) state Auditor J.A.O. Preus defeated former state Representative, Glenwood mayor, and dentist Henrik Shipstead by 2.5 points with a 43.5 percent plurality. The race highlighted the division in the GOP at that time between the traditional and progressive (A.C. Townley) wings.
The stacked field also included sitting Lieutenant Governor Tom Frankson, sitting U.S. Representative Franklin Ellsworth, former state Auditor Samuel Iverson, and St. Paul resident Thomas Keefe.
[Note: Shipstead did not end his bid and sought the governorship as an independent in the general election but placed a distant second to Preus].
Four years later, Minnesota Republicans hosted an even more competitive primary with five candidates receiving double-digit support and nominee Theodore Christianson claiming just a 22.8 percent plurality.
Christianson, an attorney, newspaper publisher, and sitting state Representative, defeated sitting Railroad and Warehouse Commissioner Ole Jacobson by 2.8 points.
Close behind were Minneapolis Mayor George Leach (19.0 percent) and State Agricultural Society president Curtis Johnson (18.3 percent). Former Secretary of State Julius Schmahl (10.7 percent) and the aforementioned ex-Congressman Franklin Ellsworth (9.1 percent) rounded out the field.
Divided GOP support in the primary did not derail the party in the general election with Christanson edging Farmer-Labor Hennepin County Attorney (and future governor) Floyd Olson by 4.9 points.
Six Republicans also suited up on primary day in five other cycles:
- 1912: Governor Adolph Eberhart (38.0 percent), former state Representative William Lee (24.7 percent), former state Representative and Senator Edward Young (18.5 percent), sitting state Representative L.C. Spooner (7.5 percent), sitting Lieutenant Governor Sam Gordon (7.3 percent), and Minneapolis wholesale paper dealer Martin Falk (4.0 percent).
- 1930: Auditor Ray Chase (45.8 percent), former Governor J.A.A. Burnquist (26.1 percent), sitting Agriculture Commissioner N.J. Holmberg (18.8 percent), sitting state Representative Albert Lagerstedt (4.0 percent), Rochester newspaper editor Paul Dehnel (3.1 percent), and St. Paul physician Eivind Klaveness (2.2 percent).
- 1948: Governor Luther Youngdahl (57.8 percent), Auditor Stafford King (39.8 percent), Backus resident William Daley (0.7 percent), Blue Earth salesman Walt Werner (0.6 percent), Edina Mayor Gene Cooper (0.5 percent), and Rochester farm hand Goldie Davis (0.5 percent).
- 1952: Governor C. Elmer Anderson (70.4 percent), Auditor Stafford King (26.2 percent), Duluth sign painter J.C. Peterson (1.6 percent), Brooklyn Center homemaker Mrs. Peder Schmidt (0.8 percent), Minneapolis radio tower worker August Scramstad (0.5 percent), and New Brighton resident Paul Indykiewicz (0.5 percent)
- 1990: Afton businessman Jon Grunseth (49.4 percent), Auditor Arne Carlson (31.6 percent), attorney Doug Kelley (16.9 percent), retired St. Paul teacher Mary Jane Rachner (0.9 percent), Minneapolis resident Samuel Faulk (0.7 percent), and Lake St. Croix Beach registered nurse Beatrice Mooney (0.5 percent)
Democrats and Farmer-Laborites have each eclipsed the half-dozen candidate mark in gubernatorial primaries.
Democrats hold the state record of eight candidates set back in 1934 in a race won by former state Representative and 1932 nominee John Regan. Seven Democrats also ran in the primary of 1920 won by St. Paul Mayor Laurence Hodgson
Meanwhile, seven Farmer-Laborites ran during the aforementioned 1924 cycle won by Floyd Olson. Olson defeated former state Representative Tom Davis by 293 votes (0.1 percent) – the closest nomination battle in state history for the office.
Republican candidates are turning out in droves to run against Walz this cycle even as Democrats aim to set the longest winning streak in statewide elections by any party in Minnesota history.
Despite a frequent drag on nominees of the party of the sitting president, Minnesota is one of 11 states that has backed Democratic nominees for governor during the last two cycles in which a Democrat was in office (Barack Obama): joining California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Montana, New York, Oregon, Washington, and West Virginia.
Since statehood, Minnesota Democrats have won 18.5 percent of gubernatorial elections with a Democrat in the White House (five of 27 elections) compared to 29.3 percent with a Republican president in office (12 of 41).
The official filing period for governor in Minnesota is during a two week window from May 17-31 2022.
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“…’nominating’ convention ?”
The descriptive term is arguably misleading, since ANY aspirant who fails to receive enough delegate votes in it is still free to pursue her bid in the primary election (some States require a certain minimum percentage of delegate votes just to be permitted on the subsequent primary ballot, eg CO, MA). Per longstanding tradition, those who fail to be _endorsed_ at the party convention tend to drop their bids for the sake of party unity rather than thumb their noses, so to speak, and insist on potentially divisive (as well as much more transparent) primary elections.
From time to time, ‘convention nominees’ have failed to make on to the general election ballot; e.g. Margaret Anderson Kelliher for the DFL in 2010, Allen Quist for the Republicans in 1994.