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The man who was mayor of Minneapolis for just one day

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Minneapolis City Hall and Hennepin County Courthouse, 1965.
Minneapolis City Hall and Hennepin County Courthouse, 1965.
Courtesy of Minnesota Historical Society

As voters head to the polls in Minneapolis to vote for mayor, all of the leading candidates on the ballot are Democrats. 

It's not a new trend for the city. 

It's been more than 40 years since Minneapolis had a Republican mayor — and the last Republican to hold the title held it for just one day. 

His name was Dick Erdall.

Erdall is now 84, and his moment of mayoral glory was so short and so uneventful, his wife Barb doesn't even really remember it. 

"It wasn't that long of a time," she told MPR News host Tom Weber. According to the city of Minneapolis, Erdall's term ran from Dec. 31, 1973 ... to Dec. 31, 1973.

His one day in office came as a surprise to everyone, including Erdall himself. Retired reporter Nick Coleman covered Erdall's mayoral career for the Minneapolis Tribune.

"Nobody remembers that Dick Erdall was mayor ever, because it was a blip at New Year's," Coleman said. 

It was all due to Minneapolis' 39th mayor — Erdall's predecessor, Charles Stenvig.

An undated election poster for Charles Stenvig, former mayor of Minneapolis
An undated election poster for Charles Stenvig, who was mayor of Minneapolis from 1969 to 1973 and from 1975 to 1977.
Courtesy of Minnesota Historical Society

Stenvig was "Trump before Trump," Coleman said. "He was the 'law and order' guy. He came to prominence against long hair, hippies, street crime ... He was against everything." Before being elected in 1969, Stenvig was a police lieutenant. He ran as an independent and won. 

In the 1973 election, however, Stenvig was unseated by Albert Hofstede, a Democrat.

"I don't think anyone really was hoping or expecting Hofstede to win, and all of a sudden he did," Coleman remembered.

Hofstede was set to be sworn in Wednesday, Jan. 2, 1974.

Less than 48 hours before that, Stenvig submitted his resignation to the Minneapolis City Council.

As Coleman wrote at the time in the Tribune: "The reasons for Stenvig's early exit as mayor were unclear." 

After resigning, Stenvig immediately returned to the police department. "I'm not even going to take a cut in pay," he said at the time. "A deputy chief makes as much as a mayor." 

By default, the president of the City Council became acting mayor. That was Erdall.

"Erdall was an innocent bystander" to the political maneuvering, Coleman said. "I can imagine his reaction would have been laughing and chortling as he walked down the third floor [of City Hall]."

As a progressive Republican, Erdall "came from a long tradition of conservative leaders of the city who were in favor of building a bigger, better, more modern city," Coleman said.

Not that he got a lot of time to accomplish anything in his hours-long role. 

"He deserved to be mayor," Coleman said. "And for more than one day."

(It should be noted that his early resignation was not the end of Charles Stenvig. He won the Minneapolis mayoral race again in 1975, unseating the man who had unseated him: Albert Hofstede. The political game of leapfrog continued when Hoftsede won the seat back from Stenvig, for the second time, in 1977.)