The Democratic governor is just the second in the state to win election at the age of 70+

Democratic Governor Tony Evers recently commented how he has not ruled out running for a third term in Wisconsin, despite already being the second oldest person to hold the office in state history.

Evers turned 71 less than a week before his reelection victory to a second term last November – becoming just the sixth Wisconsin Democrat to accomplish that feat joining Nelson Dewey (1848, 1849), George Peck (1890, 1892), Gaylord Nelson (1958, 1960), Patrick Lucey (1970, 1974), and Jim Doyle (2002, 2006).

With his victory, Evers also became just the second Wisconsinite to win the governorship at 70+ years old and is the third to serve into their 70s.

Should Evers decide to run for reelection again in 2026 and win, he would end his third term in January 2031 at the age of 79 years, 2 months, and 1 day.

That is unusually old for a Wisconsin governor, to be sure, but he still would be more than a fourth term shy of the oldest.

In 1942, GOP Lieutenant Governor Walter Goodland was reelected to a third term but Progressive Governor-elect Orland Loomis died a month after Election Day and Goodland was subsequently sworn in as governor in January 1943 at the age of 80 years, 13 days.

Goodland would win election in his own right to the office in 1944 (at the age of 81 years, 10 months, 16 days) and 1946 (83 years, 10 months, 14 days) before dying in office in March 1947 at the age of 84 years, 2 months, 18 days.

The only other Wisconsinite to serve as governor in their 70s was Democrat Albert Schmedeman who took office in 1933 at 68 years, 1 month, 8 days and left office following a failed bid in 1934 at 70 years, 1 month, 13 days.

Only five of the remaining 43 Wisconsin governors even served into their 60s:

  • Republican Julius Heil (1939-1943): 66 years, 5 months, 27 days (last day in office)
  • Republican Harrison Luddington (1876-1878): 65 years, 5 months, 8 days
  • Democrat Jim Doyle (2003-2011): 65 years, 1 month, 11 days
  • Republican Warren Knowles (1965-1971): 62 years, 4 months, 16 days
  • Republican Oscar Rennebohm (1947-1951): 61 years, 7 months, 7 days

The average Wisconsin governor exited office at 52 years of age.

And what about Evers’ prospects to win a third consecutive term?

Twelve Wisconsin governors have attempted this feat:

  • Eight were successful: Republicans Lucius Fairchild (1869), Jeremiah Rusk (1886), Robert La Follette (1904), Emanuel Philipp (1918), John Blaine (1924), Walter Kohler, Jr. (1954), Warren Knowles (1968), and Tommy Thompson (1994)
  • Four were defeated: Democrat George Peck (1894), Progressive Philip La Follette (1938), Republican Julius Heil (1942), and Republican Scott Walker (2018)

One two-term governor resigned (Democrat Patrick Lucey in 1977 to become U.S. Ambassador to Mexico) and the aforementioned Goodland was in his second full term when he died in office in 1947.

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  1. John Chessant on June 22, 2023 at 10:08 pm

    Does Goodland hold the record for the oldest person to serve as governor of any state, at age 84?

    Other governors who served into their 80s include Goodland’s near-contemporary Luren Dickinson (a fellow Upper Midwest lieutenant governor who became governor following a death) who lost re-election in 1940 and left office aged 81 years, 8 months, 17 days, as well as Jerry Brown, who wrapped up his fourth term in 2019 aged 80 years, 9 months.

    [Benjamin Franklin was president of the supreme executive council of Pennsylvania for 3 one-year terms from 1785 to 1788, leaving office aged 82 years, 9 months, 19 days. The office of president was the predecessor to that of governor, with the last president becoming the first governor of Pennsylvania upon the adoption of a new state constitution in 1790.]

    Kay Ivey and Mike DeWine will also join this list if they complete their current terms, with DeWine set to leave office just six days after his 80th birthday.

    • Daniel Fox on June 23, 2023 at 3:07 pm

      Considering how old our last two presidents have been, maybe 2028 will see a presidential race between DeWine and Evers. 🙂

    • Dr Eric J Ostermeier on June 27, 2023 at 11:11 am

      I haven’t conducted an exhaustive search yet of a list of governors older than Goodland, but a few of the other likely suspects i looked at (those w/big gaps in service) came up short (e.g. Cecil Underwood of WV (79), James Fenner of RI (74). I’ll keep looking!

  2. Cecil Crusher on August 22, 2023 at 6:37 am

    Aside from his health, the most critical factor for a ’26 bid by Evers is arguably the result of the ’24 state assembly and state senate elections, with their district lines perhaps being re-drawn following the Republicans’ de facto loss of the supreme court (the two-term incumbent will assuredly be more inclined to stand again were his party to regain control of at least one chamber).

    At least one other septuagenarian – Ann Walsh Bradley of the WI Supreme Court – has at least informally indicated that she WILL stand for another term – the 2025 election for a 10-year term!

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