With the prognostication about the potential legislative majority shift we thought an analysis of past elections could prove this hill to be quite steep for House Republicans. The principle reason is the lack of a strong candidate at the top of the ticket driving turnout. We contend the opportunity for capturing the House Majority correlates with the statewide Federal races or lack thereof. Every 12 years Minnesota elections have no federal candidates Presidential or for statewide office.
Partisan legislative elections started in 1974. Since then Republicans have captured the House Majority only three times in 1984, 1998 and 2010. Only in 1984 was there a statewide federal contest. The 1984 election featured, the reelection of Ronald Reagan (R) over favorite son former Vice-President Walter Mondale (D), though Mondale carried the state, the reelection of US Senator Rudy Boschwitz (R) over Joan Growe (D) and Republicans gained control of the House majority for the first time in state history 69-65. The DFL regain Majority in 1986 when no federal candidate appeared on the ballot. Their majority was 83-51 votes.
In 1998, there was no federal candidate for office, but there was a third party gubernatorial candidate. The election of Jesse Ventura (RP) as Governor fostered an anti-incumbent sentiment, and helped sweep Republicans to regain the House Majority. This time their majority was 71-63 seats.
In 2000, ultimately the major national issue was the Florida recount between Governor George W. Bush (R-TX) and Vice-President Al Gore (D). Gore carried our state by a very small margin of 1,168,266 votes or 49.53% over Bush with 1,067,246 or 47.34% a difference of 2.19%. Mark Dayton (D) defeated US Senator Rod Grams (R) 1,181,553 or 48.83% to 1,047,474 or 43.29%, not a statistical majority and House Republicans maintained their House Majority 69 to 65.
In 2010, once again there was no statewide federal election which resulted in Mark Dayton (D) being elected Governor defeating Rep. Tom Emmer (R) 919,232 or 43.63% to 910,462 or 43.21% and Republican control of the House 72 to 62.
When Republicans gained control the first time in 1998, they held control until the 2006 election. This meant they retained control during a federal statewide election. The 2002 election was the second reelection for US Senator Paul Wellstone (D), but with his untimely death on October 25th, the political landscape changed dramatically. With the hubbub over politicization of the Wellstone Memorial, former St Paul Mayor Norm Coleman (R) was elected to the US Senate over former Vice President Walter Mondale (D) who stood in for the election and House Republicans expanded their majority to 81 to 52. The reason for a smaller majority was a late resignation after the election by Rep. Dan McElroy (R) in 2002.
The 2008 election resulted in the largest turnout in state history. US Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) received 1,573,354 votes for 54.06% compared to 1,275,409 or 43.82 for Us Senator John McCain (R-AZ). On election night the results in the reelection contest for US Senator Norm Coleman (R -MN) and Al Franken (D-MN) resulted in a recount and by a difference of 312 votes Franken was declared the victor.
In conclusion, statewide federal races dictate turnout and have shown an effect on House Legislative Majorities. If the candidate is an incumbent in a non-Presidential election year House Majority follows. This occurred for both the Republican and DFL majorities. It favored Republicans in 1984 and 2002 and for the DFL in 2006 and 2012.
Twice the Republicans gained the House Majority without there being a statewide federal candidate in 1998 and in 2010. The DFL did the same in 1986. Never has an election for a federal statewide seat unseated the incumbent and resulted in the change in the House Legislative Majority.
This means the reelection of Al Franken (D-MN) should benefit the DFL in retaining its majority.