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Governor Mark Dayton announced last week that he will appoint Lieutenant Governor Tina Smith to fill out the term U.S. Senator Al Franken plans to vacate in early January.  Article V of the Minnesota Constitution states, "the last elected presiding officer of the senate shall become lieutenant governor in case a vacancy occurs in that office."  Since 1974, the governor and lieutenant governor have been elected jointly—rather than separately--and have been of the same party.  This change was the result of a constitutional amendment question on the ballot in 1972.

Current Senate President Michelle Fischbach is a Republican and Governor Mark Dayton is a Democrat, raising the question—how many instances in Minnesota’s history have the governor and the lieutenant governor been from different political parties?

Using lists of governors and lieutenant governors from the Legislative Reference Library and Minnesota Historical Society, Legislative Reference Library staff found five time periods when the two positions were held by individuals of different parties.

1899-1901    Governor John Lind was a Populist-Democratic-Silver-Republican when he served as governor from January 2, 1899 to January 7, 1901.  Governor Lind served his entire term with Republican Lieutenant Governor Lyndon Smith although Lieutenant Governor Smith’s tenure extended until January 5, 1903.

1905-1909    Two Republican lieutenant governors served under a Democratic governor.  Governor John A. Johnson served from 1905 until his death on September 21, 1909.  Governor Johnson’s two Republican lieutenant governors were Ray W. Jones (January 5, 1903 to January 7, 1907) and Adolph O. Eberhart (January 7, 1907 to September 25, 1909).

1915    Democratic Governor Winfield Hammond’s brief, one-year tenure as governor (January 5 to December 30, 1915) was in tandem with Republican Lieutenant Governor J.A.A. Burnquist.  Burnquist began serving as lieutenant governor two years earlier on January 7, 1913.  Governor Hammond’s death on December 30 elevated Burnquist to governor and Sen. George Sullivan, also a Republican, to lieutenant governor.

1936-1937    Farmer-Labor Governor Hjalmar Petersen served from August 24, 1936 until January 4, 1937 with Republican Lieutenant Governor William B. Richardson.  The pair were elevated to their positions due to the death of Governor Floyd B. Olson.  William Richardson was not sworn into the position of lieutenant governor and served concurrently in the Minnesota Senate.  Although Hjalmar Petersen served as a Farmer-Labor governor, he ran for other offices under different parties.  Before he ran for the Minnesota Legislature he had been a member of the Republican Party.  Later in his career, he was an unsuccessful candidate for the Republican Party endorsement for governor in 1946 and an unsuccessful candidate for the Democratic-Farmer-Labor endorsement to run for the U.S. Senate in 1958.

1961-1963    From January 3, 1955 until January 8, 1963, Democratic-Farmer-Labor Lieutenant Governor Karl Rolvaag served under two governors--one of a different party.  Rolvaag first served under fellow DFL Governor Orville Freeman from January 5, 1955  to January 2, 1961.  He then served under Republican Governor Elmer Andersen from January 2, 1961 until January 8, 1963.  The gubernatorial recount kept Republican Governor Elmer Andersen in office between January 8, 1963, when DFL Lieutenant Governor A.M Keith took office, and March 25, 1963, when Karl Rolvaag was deemed the winner.   Once again, the governor and lieutenant governor were of the same party.

See the Library's President and President Pro Tempore of the Minnesota Senate list for other instances of Presidents of the Senate becoming lieutenant governors through succession.

See the Smart Politics blog post, Minnesota On Eve of Rare Governor and Lieutenant Governor Partisan Split, for an analysis of the amount of time the top two constitutional offices in Minnesota have been occupied by members of different political parties.

(We made every effort to be complete.  Please notify the Library if you have additions or errors to report.)