Theodore Christianson Biography

Before entering politics, Theodore Christianson had pursed dual careers in western Minnesota, where he was born in 1883. After obtaining his law degree from the University of Minnesota, he was admitted to the state bar in 1909. He both practiced law and was, for fifteen years, the editor and publisher of the Dawson Sentinel. Five consecutive terms as a Republican state legislator convinced him that government reorganization was in order.

“More Ted, Less Taxes” was Christianson’s campaign promise when he ran for governor in 1924. “Tightwad Ted,” as he was affectionately dubbed, kept his word. During his administration, he limited taxes and cut expenditures at every level of state government. Voters—in a conservative mood after the turmoil of World War I—expressed their approval of his cautious fiscal policy and his disdain for “socialism” by re-electing him twice.

Efficiency was as crucial as thrift to Minnesota’s twenty-first governor, and he incorporated both priorities in his 1925 Reorganization Act. To firm up a flabby bureaucracy, he appointed a three-man Commission of Administration and Finance, which oversaw statewide accounting systems, worked on agency budget requests, and approved the allotment of state funds. This so-called Big Three unleashed the veto power of the chief executive, who slashed budget appropriations he considered extravagant.

Christianson’s bid for nomination to the U.S. Senate in 1930 failed, and he left politics temporarily. During a three-year hiatus, the former newspaperman continued to serve his native state by writing its history, a five-volume work published in 1935. He rounded out his public career with two terms in Congress.

Later, Christianson moved to Chicago and took an executive position with a national trade association. He had recently retired to Dawson when he died of a heart attack while trying to start his car on a winter night.