March of the Governors: Arne Carlson

March of the Governors: Arne Carlson
Paul Nelson and Tom Beer

Arne Carlson, Minnesota’s thirty-seventh governor, was a Swede and a progressive Republican, like several before him, but unlike them, too. He grew up poor in New York City and had no connection to the dominant Harold Stassen political lineage. Carlson came to Minnesota for graduate school—then won election after election: Minneapolis City Council, he legislature, and three terms as state auditor. He lost the 1990 GOP primary for governor but won the nomination anyway when John Grunseth flamed out. He ran the shortest election campaign in Minnesota history—five days—to defeat incumbent Governor Rudy Perpich. Carlson served eight effective years and was reelected in 1994 by a landslide. He went out like he did everything—on his own terms.