Elmer Benson


January 20, 2022

Elmer Austin Benson (1895–1985) was an American politician of Norwegian origin. He was a senator from 1935 to 1936 and governor of Minnesota from 1937 to 1939, as a representative of the Minnesota Peasants 'and Workers' Party.

Life and work

He was born in Appleton, Swift County, Minnesota. The parents had emigrated from Norway. The father Thomas Helgesen came from Valdres, and the mother Turi (Dora) Øysteinsdotter came from Dalen in Telemark. Eidsvollsmannen and Storting member Talleiv Olsson Huvestad was his great-great-grandfather on his mother's side. He trained as a lawyer and received a lawyer's license, but worked in the banking and retail trade. Despite a fine career in business, he showed strong socialist and isolationist tendencies. Elmer Benson was close to Minnesota Governor Floyd B. Olson, and he was appointed to public office. When Senator Thomas D. Schall died in 1935, Benson was appointed by the governor to succeed him. Olson died in 1936, and Deputy Governor Hjalmar Petersen would not run for re-election. The Peasants 'and Workers' Party instead nominated Benson as its gubernatorial candidate that year. He won by a large margin, but suffered an equal defeat against the Republican Harold Stassen in 1938. This is considered the end of the Peasants 'and Workers' Party as a strong, independent force in Minnesota. Benson ran for the Senate in 1940 and 1942, but lost to the Republicans. Elmer Benson bitterly regretted the party union with the Democrats of the Minnesota Democratic Peasants 'and Workers' Party in 1944. He tried to get the state party to stand behind Henry A. Wallace as the presidential candidate. in 1948, but instead the party was divided between Benson's and Hubert Humphrey's wings. Many in the Benson wing therefore went to Wallace's progressive party, where Benson became the leader of the campaign and organizational work. Unlike Wallace, Elmer Benson never let go of his conciliatory attitude toward the Soviet Union.


External links

(en) Elmer Benson of the Biographical Files of the United States Congress

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