Arne Carlson

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Arne Helge Carlson
37th Governor of Minnesota
In office
January 7, 1991 – January 4, 1999
Lieutenant Joanell Dyrstad
Joanne E. Benson
Preceded by Rudy Perpich
Succeeded by Jesse Ventura
14th Minnesota State Auditor
In office
January 4, 1979 – January 7, 1991
Preceded by Bob Mattson
Succeeded by Mark Dayton
Member of the Minnesota House of Representatives for District 58B
In office
January 2, 1973 – January 2, 1979
Preceded by District Created
Succeeded by Todd Otis
Member of the Minnesota House of Representatives for District 36
In office
January 5, 1971 – January 1, 1973
Preceded by Thor Anderson
Succeeded by District Abolished
Personal details
Born (1934-09-24) September 24, 1934 (age 84)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Political party Independent-Republican / Republican
Spouse(s) (1) Barbara Duffy (divorced)
(2) Joanne Chabot (divorced)
(3) Susan Shepard
Profession Politician
Religion Protestant

Arne Helge Carlson, Sr. (born September 24, 1934) is an American politician who served as the 37th Governor of the state of Minnesota.

Early years, education and family

Born in New York City, the son of Swedish immigrants from Göteborg (father) and Visby (mother), Carlson attended The Choate School (now Choate Rosemary Hall) in Wallingford, Connecticut, and graduated from Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, in 1957. He later attended graduate school at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

Carlson was married to Barbara Carlson from 1965 to 1977. After their divorce she became known in her own right as a Minneapolis City Councilwoman and a talk show personality. Together, they had a son, Tucker (no relation to the media personality), and two daughters, Kristin (deceased) and Anne, who has two children, Allie and Drew Davis. Carlson's second wife was Joanne Chabot. They had no children. After their divorce, he married Susan Shepard, with whom he has a daughter, Jessica. Susan served as First Lady of Minnesota from 1991 to 1999.

Political career

Minneapolis city council, Minnesota House, state auditor

Carlson served one term on the Minneapolis City Council from 1965 to 1967, and was the Republican candidate for mayor in 1967, losing to Democratic-Farmer-Labor incumbent Arthur Naftalin. He was a member of the Minnesota House of Representatives from January 1971 to January 4, 1979. In 1978, he ran for and was elected state auditor. He was reelected in 1982 and 1986, serving in that position from January 4, 1979 to January 7, 1991.

Gubernatorial campaigns and service as governor

Carlson was elected the 37th governor of Minnesota in the November 1990 general election, and served from January 7, 1991, to January 4, 1999. He won as a member of the Independent-Republican Party. In September 1995, the party changed its name to, simply, the "Republican Party."

A scandal arose in the 1990 election after the initial Republican nominee, businessman Jon Grunseth, beat Carlson in the primary. On October 15, it was revealed that, in 1981, Grunseth had invited three then-teenaged friends of his stepdaughter, as well as his stepdaughter herself, to go skinny-dipping in the pool at his home.[1][2]

A bipartisan group, Minnesotans for the ''WRITE'' Choice, launched a statewide write-in media campaign six weeks before the general election, when the allegations of impropriety first surfaced. The campaign group focused media attention on Carlson's candidacy and Grunseth's problems.

Carlson had come in second in the primary to the more conservative Grunseth, and thus became the Republican nominee when Grunseth dropped out.[3][4][5]

Generally considered a moderate, Carlson presented himself as a less polarizing leader than the incumbent governor, Rudy Perpich. He won the general election by 3 percentage points.

In 1993, Carlson served as Chairman of the Midwestern Governors Association.

In 1994, the delegates to the Minnesota Republican Party State Convention viewed Carlson as too liberal, and endorsed instead Allen Quist and Doug McFarland. Carlson and running mate Joanne E. Benson nevertheless won the September state primary, and won the November general election by a large margin, 63% to 34%, over Democratic candidate John Marty.

As governor, Carlson was well known for being a big fan of University of Minnesota sports; his official portrait in the Minnesota State Capitol shows him wearing a letter jacket from the school.

Politically active retirement

Carlson has remained politically active in retirement. In a speech at the state capitol on October 23, 2008, he endorsed Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama.[6] In 2010, he announced that he would embark on a "Paul Revere" tour of Minnesota to bring attention to fiscal problems facing the state.[7] In 2010, he again broke with his party to endorse Independence Party candidate Tom Horner in Minnesota's gubernatorial race[8] and Tim Walz for Congress.[9] In a narrow vote by the state Republican central committee, Carlson and 17 others were banned for 2 years from participating in party events, described by Politico as a "stunning purge."[10]

Following the July 1, 2011, shutdown of the state government after Governor Mark Dayton and state legislative leaders could not agree on a budget, Carlson teamed with Walter Mondale and several other prominent political and business leaders to propose a nonpartisan budget commission.[11]

Carlson and Mondale also teamed to oppose a Voter ID amendment to the state constitution in the 2012 election.[12] The amendment was defeated.

Electoral history

  • 1994 Race for Governor
    • Arne Carlson (I-R) (inc.), 63%
    • John Marty (DFL), 34%
  • 1990 Race for Governor
  • 1986 Race for state Auditor
    • Arne Carlson (I-R) (inc.)
    • John Dooley (DFL)
  • 1982 Race for state Auditor
  • 1978 Race for state Auditor


  1. "Republican Quits Minnesota Governor's Race". Los Angeles Times. Associated Press. October 29, 1990.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "Minn. nominee quits gov's race". USA Today. October 29, 1990. Archived from the original on March 30, 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Gilbert, Curtis (November 5, 2010). "Recent race tame compared to 1990 gubernatorial contest". Minnesota Public Radio. Retrieved August 11, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Republican Quits Minnesota Governor's Race". Los Angeles Times. Associated Press. October 29, 1990.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Kaszuba, Mike (2008-10-23). "Carlson endorses Obama, spurred by Bachmann remarks". Star Tribune. Archived from the original on 28 October 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-25.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Gov. Arne Carlson on Paul Revere tour
  9. Tom Scheck (October 25, 2010). "Arne Carlson backs Walz". Minnesota Public Radio. Archived from the original on 26 October 2010. Retrieved October 25, 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. James Hohmann. "Minn. GOP brings out the knives for moderates." 12-11-10.
  11. Rachel Weiner (2011-07-05). "Walter Mondale to help end Minnesota shutdown". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2011-07-05.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Rudy Perpich
Governor of Minnesota
1991 – 1999
Succeeded by
Jesse Ventura
Preceded by
Robert W. Mattson, Jr.
State Auditor of Minnesota
1979 – 1991
Succeeded by
Mark Dayton
Party political offices
Preceded by
Jon Grunseth
Republican nominee for Governor of Minnesota
October–November 1990, 1994
Succeeded by
Norm Coleman