Historically, how have Anokans voted for president?

On Tuesday, voters in the city of Anoka endorsed President Barak Obama for four more years in office. Unofficial results show Obama with 51.19 percent and Romney with 45.81 percent in the city.

Bob Kirchner
Bob Kirchner

Have presidential politics changed in Anoka over the years?

Good question. Let’s decode this presidential election chart.

The first federal election in Minnesota was in 1860 when Abraham Lincoln defeated Democrat Stephen Douglas.

From 1860 to 1880 Anokans voted overwhelmingly for Republican winners Abraham Lincoln (1860, 1864), Ulysses Grant (1868, 1872), Rutherford Hayes (1876) and James Garfield (1880).

In 1884 they favored Republican James Blaine over Democrat winner Grover Cleveland. In 1888 they selected Republican Benjamin Harrison who defeated Cleveland.

In 1892, they again favored Harrison who was defeated by Cleveland. But other parties garnered over 30 percent of the vote including James Weaver’s Populist Party (21 percent) and John Bidwell’s Prohibition Party (9.4 percent).

The Prohibition Party ran national candidates from 1884 to 1920 with Anokans giving them as much as 11.3 percent of their vote in 1888.

But back to the main story.

Between 1896 and 1908 Anokans again strongly favored Republican winners William McKinley (1896, 1900), Theodore Roosevelt (1904) and William Taft (1908).

But in 1912 Anokans preferred Progressive Theodore Roosevelt (36.2 percent) over Republican William Taft (25.1 percent) and the Democrat winner Woodrow Wilson (31.5 percent).

The elections between 1916 and 1944 returned to the pattern of strong Republican majorities in Anoka. In 1916 Anokans selected Republican Charles Hughes (who lost to Democrat Woodrow Wilson) and Republican winners Warren Harding (1920), Calvin Coolidge (1924) and Herbert Hoover (1928).

Anokans never gave Democrat Franklin Roosevelt a majority or plurality still preferring Republican losers Herbert Hoover (1932), Alfred Landon (1936), Wendell Willke (1940) and Thomas Dewey (1944) by an average margin of 9 percent.

In 1948, for the first time, Anokans gave a tiny majority to a Democrat, Harry Truman (50.49 percent), who defeated Republican Thomas Dewey (49.51 percent).

In 1952 and 1956 Anokans gave large majorities to Republican winner Dwight Eisenhower over Democrat Adlai Stevenson.

In 1960, they continued their Republican preference for Richard Nixon (58.37 percent) over Democrat winner John Kennedy (41.55 percent).

But the political landscape in Anoka began to change in the 1950s. Between 1950 and 1970 the population of the city increased by 82 percent with arrival of migrants from northern Minnesota and the north suburbs. Their politics took a more democratic slant.

Republican dominance came to an end in the 1960s.

In 1964, Anokans gave a strong majority to Democrat winner Lyndon Johnson (57.5 percent) over Republican Barry Goldwater (42.3 percent).

In 1968, Anokans gave a slim margin to Minnesota Democrat Hubert Humphrey (50.4 percent) over Republican winner Richard Nixon (49.6 percent).

But, in 1972 Anokans favored winner Nixon (58.2 percent) over Democrat George McGovern (39.4 percent).

Then, in 1976, Anokans, by a surprising margin, favored Democrat winner James Carter (52.3 percent) over Republican incumbent Gerald Ford (45.3 percent). In 1980, Anokans again favored incumbent Carter (47.9 percent) over Republican winner Ronald Reagan (42.7 percent).

But, in 1984 Anokans switched to incumbent winner Reagan (52.8 percent) by a wide margin over Minnesota’s own Democrat Walter Mondale (44.8 percent).

In 1988, Anokans, by a thread, switched back to Democrat Michael Dukakis (48.6 percent) over Republican winner George H. W. Bush (48.1 percent).

In 1992 a strong third party led by Independent H. Ross Perot took votes from both Republicans and Democrats. Anokans gave Perot 25.6 percent, incumbent Republican George H. W. Bush 32.9 percent and Democrat winner William Clinton 40.9 percent.

In 1996, incumbent winner Clinton easily won in Anoka with 52.3 percent over Republican challenger Robert Dole with 33.6 percent.

As we remember, the 2000 election was a cliffhanger, or should we say a hanging chad thriller, in Florida. Here in Anoka, Democrat Albert Gore (47.29 percent) was narrowly favored over Republican winner George W. Bush (46.57 percent).

But in 2004, again by a small margin, Anokans favored incumbent winner George W. Bush (50.62 percent) over Democrat challenger John Kerry (48.37 percent).

In 2008, Anokans selected winner Democrat Barak Obama (50.98 percent) over Republican John McCain (47.02 percent).

And Tuesday, Anokans picked another national winner in a relatively close election.

In fact, Anokans have picked the national winner five of the last six elections only missing on the hanging chad thriller of 2000.

No wonder Anoka has become a political bellwether for future elections. Could that also be true in other endeavors?

Bob Kirchner is a local historian, seminary student and city of Anoka’s part-time community development director.

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