Guv Love

It’ll be lonely at the governor’s residence this Valentine’s Day for the first time in nearly a century

Mark Dayton’s term as governor has barely begun, but already there’s a string of footnotes historians can attach to his legacy. He’s one of the few Democrats to buck the GOP tide of 2010, and the first DFLer to claim the governor’s chair in a quarter century. He’s also the first single guy to run the North Star state in nearly 100 years. The last bachelor in the governor’s mansion was Winfield Scott Hammond, elected in 1915. ¶ Like Dayton, Hammond was a Democrat with a patrician moniker, an Ivy League degree, and a background in education. But let’s hope the parallels end there: After less than a year in office, Hammond contracted food poisoning on a trip to Louisiana, suffered a stroke, and died. ¶ The examples of Dayton (twice divorced) and Hammond (never married) aside, Minnesotans seem to prefer their chief executives wedded. Perhaps it hints at bipartisanship. Perhaps it reassures us that cold pizza won’t be served for breakfast on Summit Avenue. Whatever the case, here are some snapshots of bygone states of the union.

Tim Pawlenty

Republican, 2003–2010

Wife: Mary Elizabeth Anderson
Where they met: The University of Minnesota law school. Tim told the Christian Broadcasting Network that he spotted Mary as “she walked through the library and I thought, ‘Wow, she’s hot!’ That was it.”
Romantic gesture: On the stump, Tim introduced Mary, a former Dakota County judge, as his “red-hot smoking wife, the first lady of Minnesota.” He praised her for her sports fandom and fishing prowess but—demerit—publicly joked that she won’t have sex with him.

Jesse Ventura

Independence, 1999–2003

Wife: Teresa “Terry” Larson
Where they met: At a New Hope bar where Jesse worked as a bouncer. “Our eyes locked, and I was a goner,” Terry once recalled.
Romantic gesture: Jesse raised eyebrows when he put a waterbed in the governor’s residence. He also suggested that Terry be paid a $25,000 salary as First Lady. And though famous for declaring his wish to be reincarnated as a “38 double-D bra,” the Body has called Terry “the sweetest person in the world.”

Arne Carlson

Republican, 1991–1999

Wives: Barbara Jane Duffy, Joanne Chabot, Susan Shepard
Romantic gesture: Didn’t sue his ex Barbara after the 1996 publication of her tell-all book This Broad’s Life, which recounted embarrassing episodes from their tumultuous 12-year marriage. And even though she hit him with a cast-iron skillet, cheated on him, stabbed him twice (once with a ballpoint pen, once with a knife), Arne, as sitting governor in 1997, endorsed Babs in her unsuccessful run for mayor of Minneapolis.

Rudy Perpich

DFL, 1976–1979, 1983–1991

Wife: Delores “Lola” Helen Simich
Where they met: At Chappel’s Malt Shop in Keewatin, where Lola, a high-school junior, was working. Rudy, then a college freshman, was instantly smitten, declaring, “That’s the girl I’m going to marry.”
Romantic gesture: Rudy pushed to have Lola included in his official governor’s portrait. When the state refused, he purchased billboard space near the capitol where a picture of the couple was displayed. (Oddly, in the end, Mark Dayton made a donation to pay for the painting!)

Floyd B. Olson

Farmer-Labor, 1931–1936

Wife: Ada Krejci
Where they met: At a nickel theater, where Floyd worked as an usher and Ada played piano.
Romantic gesture: Floyd did his best to insulate his wife from the pressures of his office. “Even Mrs. Olson could not recall an instance when the governor asked her advice on a political question or on the delicate problems of human relations,” wrote Floyd’s biographer. Given that he governed during the tumult of the Great Depression, it’s hard not to see some chivalry in his refusal to bring work home with him.