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10 Reasons to Run an Independent Campaign in Minnesota

3 min read
Good Party Politics Team · Feb 20, 2024

Known for its lakes and forests, progressive politics, and high levels of civic engagement, Minnesota offers a vibrant and competitive political arena for the 2024 elections. The state has a rich tradition of political independence and a strong third-party history, making it an intriguing battleground for independent candidates. 

As we look ahead to the various seats up for election in 2024, let's explore the state’s political history and highlight some compelling reasons why running as an independent in the North Star State could be a strategic move.

Minnesota's Political Landscape

Minnesota is an “open partisan with non-partisan registration state” that has open primaries for the presidential nominations. It stands out for its high voter turnout and engagement, including a record 64.3% voter turnout in the 2018 election cycle. This is a testament to the state's active political culture. 

Minnesota has been a historic stronghold for progressive policies, but its electorate is diverse. During the first third of the 20th century, Republicans dominated the scene. Since 1960, the state has been reliably Democratic in every presidential election except 1972. There are significant rural conservative areas, providing a balance to the urban progressive centers. This diversity creates a dynamic political environment where independent candidates can find a receptive audience.

The state also has a history of electing independent and third-party candidates to offices at all levels, from governor to local seats on city councils and school boards. In fact, five of its governors have been independents, and there have been five Democratic Socialists elected to the State House and Senate since 2021. The city of St. Paul had a Democratic Socialist mayor, James Scheibel, from 1990 - 1994. 

Two cities in Minnesota have had Democratic Socialists on their city councils, with Joel Sipress serving in Duluth from 2014 - 2021 and Erik Hatlestad representing the city of New London from 2016 - 2020. Not to be outdone, Minneapolis/St.Paul has added seven city council members from that party since 2021. 

Fifteen of the current State House candidates from B sections in Districts 1 - 8 and seven others are running under the banner of the Legalize Marijuana Now Party, which shows a high degree of third-party coordination. It also shows a willingness for the state to honor a variety of alternative perspectives, though their qualifications are being challenged by the establishment Democrats.  

It’s not surprising that Minnesota is welcoming and inclusive of independent and minor party politicians. Independent voters make up 32.56% of the electorate.

Notable Independent Politicians in Minnesota

Minnesota has a rich history of political independence, with several notable independent politicians influencing state and national politics. Dating back to Farmer-Labor Party governors Floyd B. Olson (1931 - 1937) and Elmer Austin Benson (1937 - 1939) to the present day, independent and third-party politicians are an integral part of Minnesota’s political landscape. 

One of the most prominent figures has been Jesse Ventura, who served as the Governor of Minnesota from 1999 - 2003. Prior to that, he served as Mayor of Brooklyn Park (1991 - 1995).

Running as a Reform Party candidate in 1998 (a party that later rebranded and fostered independent candidates), Ventura's victory was a landmark event in Minnesota politics, showcasing the state's openness to independent and third-party candidates. His tenure as governor was marked by a focus on tax reform, education funding, and infrastructure improvement. He also had a distinctive approach to governance that often challenged the status quo.

Another significant figure has been Dean Barkley, founder and member of the Independence Party of Minnesota, who briefly served as a U.S. Senator for Minnesota in 2002. Appointed by Governor Ventura to fill the vacancy created by the death of Senator Paul Wellstone, Barkley's short tenure in the Senate underscored the influence of independent politicians in Minnesota. His political career, including a bid for the U.S. Senate in 2008, highlighted the viability and impact of independent candidates in the state's political landscape.

These examples highlight the unique political culture in Minnesota, where independent and third-party candidates have historically found success and influenced the direction of state and national politics.

Top 10 Reasons for Independents to Run for Office in Minnesota

We’ve highlighted the state’s propensity for alternative politicians. Now, let’s get to some more specific reasons to consider running for office as an independent in Minnesota in 2024:

Reason #1: High Voter Turnout

Minnesota consistently boasts one of the highest voter turnouts in the nation. This indicates an engaged electorate that is open to evaluating independent candidates on their merits rather than their party affiliations. 

Reason #2: History of Political Independence

The state has a storied history of supporting independent and third-party candidates, including the election of Jesse Ventura as governor. This tradition signals a willingness among voters to consider alternatives to the two major parties, the Republicans and Democrats.

Reason #3: Engagement Across the Political Spectrum

Minnesota's electorate spans a broad political spectrum. This offers independents the chance to appeal to moderates, disaffected party members, and those seeking fresh perspectives. Independent candidates can focus on the issues that most matter to the voters in their local communities, rather than having to cave to national party interests.

Reason #4: Focus on Local and State Issues

Minnesotans prioritize local and state issues. This provides a platform for independents to address specific concerns such as education, healthcare, and environmental stewardship without the baggage of national party politics.

Reason #5: Progressive Social Policies

The state's openness to progressive social policies allows independent candidates to champion causes such as LGBTQ+ rights, racial equality, and immigration reform. Such diversity and inclusivity provides the potential for rallying a strong base of support in marginalized communities.

Reason #6: Rural and Urban Balance

Independents seeking state-wide offices have the opportunity to bridge the divide between Minnesota's rural and urban areas by addressing universal issues like economic development, infrastructure, and broadband access.

Alternatively, candidates running for local positions like school board or city council have the opportunity to focus solely on the issues that matter most to their communities.

Reason #7: Environmental and Agricultural Focus

With its vast natural resources and agricultural heritage, Minnesota is ripe for independent candidates to propose innovative environmental and sustainable farming policies. Running for office as an independent means having the freedom to provide solutions that work for all Minnesotans, including Minnesota farmers.

Reason #8: Education and Innovation

The state's emphasis on education and innovation provides a fertile ground for independents to advocate for policies that support technological advancement and educational equity. This area of focus is especially important for independent candidates running for school board or other education-related positions.

Reason #9: Health and Well-being

Minnesota's focus on health and well-being, including its leading healthcare systems, allows independents to foreground issues of public health, mental health, and healthcare access in their campaigns.

Reason #10: National Influence

Successful independent campaigns in Minnesota can have a significant national impact, given the state's reputation for political innovation and its role in shaping national discourse on key issues.

Running for Office in Minnesota

For those considering an independent campaign in Minnesota in 2024, leveraging the state's engaged electorate and unique political culture is crucial. Tailoring campaigns to the diverse needs of Minnesota's population and focusing on substantive policy proposals can help independent candidates stand out in a crowded field of political candidates.

All 134 seats in the Minnesota House of Representatives are up for election in 2024. This offers an ideal opportunity for independent candidates to make their mark on Minnesota politics, representing the needs of their local districts while influencing the direction of the state government. Candidates may submit a petition with a minimum of 500 signatures in lieu of the $100 filing fee to gain ballot access for state legislature seats. 

In Hennepin County, residents are looking for a new County Commissioner to represent District 8, as well as new members of the County Legislature.

You can find more information about local and state races in Minnesota with the Good Party Office Explorer tool. You can also consult your local government’s website to see what local offices are up for election in your town or city.

Dates and Deadlines for Independent Candidates in Minnesota 

Independent candidates will need to make sure they have all of their qualifying documents in order to file on time. The primaries are scheduled for March 5, 2024, and the candidate filing deadline is June 4, 2024. The general elections will be held on November 5, 2024.

Tips for Independent Candidates in Minnesota

  1. Emphasize non-partisanship. Stressing a non-partisan approach to governance can attract voters who are tired of polarized politics.

  2. Champion local issues. Demonstrating a deep understanding of local and state-specific issues can build strong support for your campaign.

  3. Engage with local communities. Direct engagement with communities across Minnesota, from town hall meetings to local events, is essential for building grassroots support, especially for candidates running for state-wide positions.

  4. Innovate policy proposals. Offering innovative and practical solutions to issues like climate change, education reform, and economic inequality can captivate an electorate that’s keen on progress.

  5. Maximize digital and social media. Effective use of digital platforms is crucial for reaching a wide audience, particularly younger voters and those in remote areas.

Support for Your Independent Campaign is Just a Click Away

The 2024 elections in Minnesota present a unique opportunity for independent candidates. The state's rich tradition of political independence, combined with its diverse and engaged electorate, sets the stage for independents to make significant inroads into Minnesota politics.

By focusing on local issues and leveraging Minnesota's progressive political culture, independent candidates have a real chance to influence the direction of the state.

Good Party is here to make the process of launching and running a campaign for office smoother.

We’re on a mission to provide free tools and support for independent candidates like you. From expert campaign planning assistance to AI-powered tools that will keep your campaign on track, we have what you need for an efficient, successful campaign in Minnesota. Book a demo today to get started with Good Party’s free tools or discuss your ideas for running for office.

Photo by Nicole Geri on Unsplash


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By Good Party Politics Team
The politics team is focused on transforming the political landscape by promoting transparency, accountability, and positive change. They aim to engage citizens in the political process, encourage informed decision-making, and support candidates who prioritize the common good. Their mission revolves around creating a more fair and just political system, fostering collaboration, and breaking down traditional barriers of partisanship.