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Arne Carlson Biography - Page 1

Arne Helge Carlson was born in New York City on September 24, 1934. His parents were Swedish immigrants who struggled through the Great Depression. Their economic struggles returned after World War II, when the family resided in a tarpaper shack in the poorest section of the Bronx. In an effort to find work, the parents moved the family to Sweden in 1947. But conditions were no better overseas. They returned to New York within a year.

The greatest opportunity of Carlson's life came at fifteen, when he received a scholarship to attend Choate, one of the nation's top preparatory schools. Years later, he would credit the school with changing the course of his life. He graduated from Williams College in Massachusetts in 1957 with a degree in history. He enrolled in graduate school at the University of Minnesota. It was in Minnesota that Carlson would realize his political ambitions.

He plunged into politics with Senator Hubert H. Humphrey's presidential campaign in 1959. After Humphrey's defeat to John F. Kennedy for the Democratic nomination, Carlson, a lifelong Democrat, became a moderate Republican. Carlson won a seat on the Minneapolis City Council in 1965, in his first campaign for political office. Three years later, he challenged Minneapolis Mayor Arthur Naftalin and lost by less than two percent of the vote. Carlson went on to serve eight years in Minnesota's House of Representatives, where his debating skills landed him the role of floor whip. His legislative career concluded in 1978, when he was elected State Auditor.

Long interested in running for governor, he finally entered the race in 1986. Unsuccessful, he tried again four years later. He withdrew when Jon Grunseth beat him in the Republican primary, but allegations of impropriety led Grunseth to drop out. Less than a month before Election Day, Carlson re-entered the race and won. He was inaugurated Minnesota's 37th governor in January 1991.