1859 Election Cycle

After being shut-out in statewide races in the Election of 1857, Republicans came back to sweep them all in November 1859 led by gubernatorial nominee Alexander Ramsey on the top of the ticket. The Republicans won elections for Governor, Lieutenant Governor (Ignatius Donnelly), Secretary of State (James Baker), and Attorney General (Gordon Cole) were decided by single digits with Charles Scheffer winning his first of three terms for Treasurer by 10 points. Republicans also won the first of 10 consecutive elections to the U.S. House.

In December, incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator James Shields lost his seat when the state legislature elected former Minnesota Territorial Governor and Republican nominee Morton Wilkinson.


Date Office Stage Winners Details
12/15/1859 U.S. Senate General Morton S. Wilkinson (Republican) won with 79 votes (69.91%) and a winning margin of +40.71
Candidate Gender Party Votes Percent
Morton S. Wilkinson Man Republican 79 69.91
James Shields Incumbent Man Democrat 33 29.20
Willis A. Gorman Man Democrat 1 0.88

Elected by the state legislature in a joint convention.

Wilkinson was an attorney from Stillwater, former territorial Representative (HD 02, 1849-1850), and former Ramsey County Register of Deeds (1851-1853).

Gorman was a former Minnesota Territorial Governor (1853-1857).

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10/11/1859 Treasurer General Charles Scheffer (Republican) won with 21,335 votes (55.04%) and a winning margin of +10.09
Candidate Gender Party Votes Percent
Charles Scheffer Man Republican 21,335 55.04
Samuel B. Abbe Man Democrat 17,425 44.96

Scheffer was a banker from Stillwater and the brother of future Democratic state Senator Albert Scheffer (SD 26, 1887-1891).

Abbe was a trader from Crow Wing County.

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10/11/1859 Attorney General General Gordon E. Cole (Republican) won with 21,186 votes (54.58%) and a winning margin of +9.16
Candidate Gender Party Votes Percent
Gordon E. Cole Man Republican 21,186 54.58
John B. Brisbin Man Democrat 17,630 45.42

Cole was an attorney from Faribault who later served in the state Senate (SD 08, 1866-1867) and state House (HD 20, 1883-1885).

Brisbin was a St. Paul attorney, President of the Territorial Council (District 2, 1856-1857), the seventh mayor of St. Paul, and a state Representative (HD 21, 1863-1864).

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10/11/1859 Secretary of State General James H. Baker (Republican) won with 20,732 votes (53.47%) and a winning margin of +6.95
Candidate Gender Party Votes Percent
James H. Baker Man Republican 20,732 53.47
Francis Baasen Incumbent Man Democrat 18,039 46.53

With Bassen's loss, Democrats would lose the next 48 elections to the office of Secretary of State until Joseph Donovan's victory in 1954.

Baker was a former Ohio Secretary of State (1856-1858) who later settled in Mankato and served as Railroad Commissioner (1882-1887).

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10/11/1859 Lieutenant Governor General Ignatius Donnelly (Republican) won with 20,917 votes (54.21%) and a winning margin of +8.41
Candidate Gender Party Votes Percent
Ignatius Donnelly Man Republican 20,917 54.21
Sylvannus Lowry Man Democrat 17,670 45.79

Donnelly was an attorney, farmer, and author from Nininger who would later serve as a Republican U.S. Representative (1863-1869), Anti-Monopolist state Senator (SD 20, 1874-1878), Democratic state Senator (SD 20, 1878-1879), independent state Representative (HD 25, 1887-1889), Farmer’s Alliance state Senator (SD 24, 1891-1895), People’s state Representative (HD 24, 1897-1899), and People’s nominee for Vice President (1900).

Lowry was a newspaper editor from St. Cloud, Territorial Council member (District 5, 1852-1853), former St. Cloud Mayor (1856), and future state Senator (SD 03, 1862).

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