While incumbent Gov. Arne Carlson was popular in the state, he was not popular with rank-and-file Republicans, who viewed his victory in 1990 as an accident. Carlson, who was pro-choice and in favor of extending civil rights to homosexuals, was seen as too moderate by delegates to the GOP state convention, who ultimately chose former State Representative Allen Quist, a staunch conservative, as their nominee. Ultimately, though, Carlson easily defeated Quist in the state primary, putting him on the ballot for November. Primary results were, 321,084 votes for Arne Carlson and 161,670 votes for Allen Quist.
At the DFL convention, Marty received the party endorsement, beating back a strong challenge by three opponents, one of whom Mike Freeman, son of a popular former Governor withdrew, but Marty still faced a strong challenge from former Minneapolis Chief of Police Tony Bouza. Bouza faded, however, when it was revealed that he supported severe restrictions on handguns. Marty ultimately won a narrow victory in the primary over former Commerce Commissioner Mike Hatch, who lost his second consecutive gubernatorial primary. Primary Results were, Marty 144,462, Hatch 139,109, Bouza 93,841, and Van Bergen 4,751.
The 1994 election nationwide was noted for a GOP wave of election victories. In Minnesota, that wave wasn't as evident as half of the statewide elections went for each party. With the GOP winning the Governor, U.S. Senator and State Attorney General positions and the DFL winning the Secretary of State, State Auditor and State Treasurer positions. As well, the Minnesota State House remained in DFL control by a 72-64 margin. The results of the gubernatorial general election were: Arne Carlson 1,094,165, John Marty 589,344, Will Shetterly 20,785, Jon Hillson 3,022, Eric Arthur Olson 15,467, Leslie Davis 4,611.