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Dave Durenberger
United States Senator
from Minnesota

In office
November 8, 1978 – January 3, 1995
Preceded by Muriel Humphrey
Succeeded by Rod Grams
Personal details
Born David Ferdinand Durenberger
August 19, 1934(1934-08-19) (age 88)
St. Cloud, Minnesota, U.S.
Political party Republican (Before 2005)
Independent (2005–present)
Spouse(s) Judy Durenberger (Deceased)
Susan Foote
Alma mater Saint John's University, Minnesota
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
Military service
Allegiance United States
Service/branch  United States Army
Years of service 1956–1963

David Ferdinand Durenberger (born August 19, 1934) is an American politician and a former Republican member of the U.S. Senate from Minnesota.

Early life

Durenberger was born in St. Cloud, Minnesota, the son of Isabelle Marie (Cebulla) and George Gephard Durenberger.[1] He is of German and Polish descent.[2] His father was the athletic director and a coach at Saint John's University in Collegeville, Minnesota, and the family lived on campus.[1] David Durenberger graduated from St. John's Prep School there in 1951 and from the university in 1955.[3] He attended the University of Minnesota Law School and received his J.D. in 1959.[4] At St. John's he was the top-rated cadet in his ROTC class,[5] and after college was a lieutenant in the Army Counter-Intelligence Corps in 1956 and a captain in the United States Army Reserve from 1957 to 1963.[3]

Professional career

After law school, Durenberger was employed by a South St. Paul law firm with strong political connections. It had been founded in 1929 by Republican Harold Stassen, later the governor of Minnesota from 1939 to 1943, and Elmer Ryan, a Democrat who was member of the U.S House of Representatives from 1935 to 1941.[6] When Durenberger joined it was headed by Harold LeVander. The firm took the name LeVander, Gillen, Miller and Durenberger.[3] LeVander, a Republican, was elected governor of Minnesota in 1966 and took office in January 1967, and Durenberger became his executive secretary from then until the end of LeVander's term in 1971. He then joined the H.B. Fuller Company as in-house counsel, corporate secretary, and manager of international licensing until 1978. He also served as chair of the Metropolitan Open Space Advisory Board from 1972 to 1974 and was on the Minnesota State Ethical Practices Board from 1974 to 1978.[3]

U.S. Senate

On November 7, 1978, Durenberger was elected in a special election to complete the unexpired term of Senator Hubert Humphrey, whose position had temporarily been filled by Humphrey's wife Muriel. He was reelected in 1982 and again in 1988, serving from November 8, 1978, to January 3, 1995 in the 96th, 97th, 98th, 99th, 100th, 101st, 102nd and 103rd Congresses. Durenberger was chair of the Select Committee on Intelligence in the 99th Congress,[3] and the Health Subcommittee of the Senate Finance Committee, giving him a leadership role in national health reform. He also chaired the Intergovernmental Relations Subcommittee, led President Reagan's New Federalism effort in 1982, and was a 14-year member of the Advisory Committee on Intergovernmental Relations. He was a member of the Senate Environment Committee, the Government Affairs Committee, and the committee now known as the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, and served as vice chair of the Pepper Commission in 1989-90.[3]

Durenberger was Senate sponsor of the Medicare Catastrophic act, the AHCPR (now AHRQ) on voting rights for the disabled, the Americans with Disabilities Act, George H. W. Bush's 1000 Points of Light and Bill Clinton's National and Community Service Act, National Service Learning, the Consumer Choice Education Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Direct Lending Act, and the Women's Economic Equity Act.


Durenberger did not run for reelection in 1994 and was succeeded by Rod Grams. In 1995, he pleaded guilty to charges of misuse of public funds while in office and was sentenced to one year of probation.[7][8][9]

Post-Senate life


In 2005 Durenberger gave an interview on the Inside Minnesota Politics Podcast in which he said that he is no longer a supporter of the Republican Party but is not a supporter of the Democratic Party either. In an interview, he said that Democrats are better equipped to handle health care and that President George W. Bush was wrong about the Iraq War.[10] In 2010, Durenberger endorsed his former chief of staff, Independence Party member Tom Horner, for governor.[11]

Durenberger chaired the National Institute of Health Policy (NIHP) and is a Senior Health Policy Fellow at the University of St. Thomas in Saint Paul. He served on the board of National Coalition on HealthCare. He has also served on national health commissions and boards, including the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission and Board of the National Commission on Quality Assurance (NCQA), and the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured. Durenberger endorsed former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for president in 2016.[12] He is a member of the ReFormers Caucus of Issue One.[13]


A collection of Durenberger's senatorial files is held by the Minnesota Historical Society. It documents his three terms in the United States Senate and is strongest in its documentation of the third (1989–95). The papers are perhaps most significant for the information they contain about his interest in, and legislative activities regarding, health policy and health care reform issues.[14]

Durenberger's books include When Republicans were Progressive,[15] which traces the history of Minnesota's Republican party from the era of Harold Stassen, a moderate Republican governor who took office in 1939, to the ascendency of a more conservative strain within the party in the late 1980s (Durenberger laments the polarization of more recent politics);[16] Neither Madmen nor Messiahs: A Policy of National Security for America (1984), on defense policy; and Prescription for Change (1986), on health care reform.

Electoral history

  • 1978 race for U.S. Senate (special election)
    • David Durenberger (R), 61%
    • Bob Short (DFL), 35%
  • 1982 race for U.S. Senate
    • David Durenberger (R) (inc.), 53%
    • Mark Dayton (DFL), 47%
  • 1988 race for U.S. Senate
    • David Durenberger (R) (inc.), 57%
    • Skip Humphrey (DFL), 41%


  1. 1.0 1.1 Ceremonies Honor Two Giants of Saint John's - George and Isabelle Durenberger, St. John's University, April 29, 2017.
  2. Glasrud, Clarence A. (ed.), A Heritage Deferred:The German-Americans in Minnesota, Concordia College (Moorhead) pp. 6, 12 (1981).
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 Peterson, David B., "Biographical Sketch", Minnesota Historical Society (1996).
  4. Corrine Charais, "Political Action Among Alumni", Perspectives, University of Minnesota Law School, p. 18. Spring 2007.
  5. Fighting Saints Battalion - Army ROTC: A Proud History-A Bright Future, St. John's University.
  6. "Governor Stassen", Life Magazine, October 19, 1942, p. 128.
  7. David Durenberger at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
  9. [2]
  10. Inside Minnesota Politics Podcast: Sen. Dave Durenberger Pt 2
  11. Tom Horner, May 16, 2010
  12. Mali, Meghashyam (2016-08-10). "Clinton touts slew of new GOP endorsements". TheHill. 
  14. David Durenberger senatorial files
  15. Durenberger, Dave and Lori Sturdevant, When Republicans were Progressive, Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2018. ISBN 9781681340784.
  16. Nathanson, Iric, "From mainstream to extinct: A look back at the GOP's progressive era in Minnesota", Minnesota Post, October 18, 2018.

External links

Party political offices
Preceded by
Jerry Brekke
Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Minnesota
(Class 1)

1978, 1982, 1988
Succeeded by
Rod Grams
United States Senate
Preceded by
Muriel Humphrey
United States Senator (Class 1) from Minnesota
Served alongside: Wendell Anderson, Rudy Boschwitz, Paul Wellstone
Succeeded by
Rod Grams
Preceded by
Barry Goldwater
Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee
Succeeded by
David Boren

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