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Democrats Hold Edge Over GOP for Average Years of Service in U.S. House

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Despite 30 percent of its caucus elected since 2006, Democrats have served almost 1 more year per member on average than Republicans; GOP also losing more experienced members to retirement on average than Democrats

While the Republican Party's eyes continue to bulge as it looks to pick off a few dozen or more Democratic U.S. House seats in this November's election, the GOP is nonetheless on the brink of losing more experienced members due to retirement and other political ambitions than a Democratic Party which already holds an advantage in terms of average years of service in the U.S. House.

A Smart Politics analysis of the 433 non-vacant districts in the U.S. House finds that despite the Democratic Party picking up more than 4-dozen seats in the last two election cycles and introducing more than 75 new members to the legislative body during that span, the average length of service by Democrats in the U.S. House is still greater by almost one full year compared to the Republicans.

The 255 Democrats in the U.S. House have served a combined 2,921.3 years in the lower chamber to date, or an average of 11.5 years per member.

The 178 Republicans, meanwhile, have served 1,910.1 years collectively, or 10.7 years per member.

Democrats hold this edge in experience despite the fact that there are currently 77 members (30 percent of its caucus) who were elected to the U.S. House from November 2006 onwards, compared to just 36 Republicans currently serving in the House who were elected during that span (20 percent of its caucus).

Almost three dozen members of the U.S. House have announced they will not be seeking reelection this year - due to either retirement from politics or the quest for higher public office.

The average length of service of the 18 Republicans stepping down from the U.S. House is nearly one full term longer than that of the 15 Democrats. The GOP is losing members who have served a combined 234.1 years to date - or 13.0 years on average.

This list includes five members who entered with the class of 1993 and who have all served 17.1 years to date: Michael Castle (DE-AL), Lincoln Diaz-Balart (FL-21), Nathan Deal (GA-09), Steve Buyer (IN-04), and Peter Hoekstra (MI-02).

While Democrats are losing three members of Congress with longer years of service - Bart Gordon (TN-06; 25.1 years), John Tanner (TN-08; 21.1 years), and Neil Abercrombie (HI-01; 19.4 years) - the average length of service of those Democrats not seeking reelection in 2010 is just 11.1 years to date, or two years less than the retiring GOPers.

One reason the Democrats have notched more average years of service than the Republicans, despite the fact that 30 percent of its caucus was elected since November 2006, is that almost all of the most seasoned members of the U.S. House are Democrats.

Thirteen of the top 15 members in the U.S. House with the longest length of service are Democrats - each with at least 33 years under their belts. This list is headed, of course, by Michigan's John Dingell (MI-15; 54.2 years) and John Conyers (MI-14; 45.1 years).

The only Republicans to crack the Top 15 list are the Youngs - Bill of Florida (District 10, 39.1 years) and Don of Alaska (AL, 36.9 years).

In total, 18 current U.S. Representatives have served at least 30 years in the chamber.

Top 15 Longest Serving Current Members of the U.S. House

Rank
District
Incumbent
Party
Years
1
MI-15
John Dingell
Democrat
54.2
2
MI-14
John Conyers
Democrat
45.1
3
WI-07
David Obey
Democrat
40.8
4
NY-15
Charlie Rangel
Democrat
39.1
4
FL-10
Bill Young
GOP
39.1
6
CA-13
Pete Stark
Democrat
37.1
7
AK-01
Don Young
GOP
36.9
8
CA-07
George Miller
Democrat
35.1
8
CA-30
Henry Waxman
Democrat
35.1
8
MN-08
Jim Oberstar
Democrat
35.1
11
MA-07
Ed Markey
Democrat
33.3
12
MI-05
Dale Kildee
Democrat
33.1
12
MO-04
Ike Skelton
Democrat
33.1
12
WA-06
Norman Dicks
Democrat
33.1
12
WV-03
Nick Rahall
Democrat
33.1
Data compiled by Smart Politics from the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.

And which states have the most experienced U.S. House delegations?

Excluding states with at-large members, which hold three of the top six slots (Alaska at #1, Delaware and North Dakota at #5), West Virginians have remained the most loyal to their U.S. Representatives, with Nick Rahall, Alan Mollohan, and Shelley Moore Capito averaging 23.1 years of service.

A recent Smart Politics analysis of seniority in the U.S. Senate also found West Virginia at the top of that list for years of service in the upper chamber.

West Virginia is followed by Michigan (#3, 19.4 years on average), Wisconsin (#4, 18.3 years), and Massachusetts (#7, 16.3 years).

The greenest state delegations with at least two members are New Mexico (1.1 years on average) and New Hampshire (3.1 years).

Whether or not this extra experience in the U.S. House will be an asset to the Democrats as they attempt to stave off large losses in 2010 could depend in part on the extent to which there is a 'throw-all-the-bums-out' mentality this November.

However, several dozen Democrats represent very safe districts and many have withstood previous GOP surges.

For example, 75 current members of the Democratic caucus were elected into office before the Republican Revolution of 1994 - withstanding the GOP in that election and every other one since. (An additional six members of the Democratic caucus were first elected to the body during that November 1994 election).

Average Length of Service of U.S. House Delegation by State

Rank
State
Years
Districts
Average
1
Alaska
36.9
1
36.9
2
West Virginia
69.3
3
23.1
3
Michigan
290.7
15
19.4
4
Wisconsin
146.2
8
18.3
5
Delaware
17.1
1
17.1
5
North Dakota
17.1
1
17.1
7
Massachusetts
163.2
10
16.3
8
Washington
125.9
9
14.0
9
California
710.8
53
13.4
10
Tennessee
120.1
9
13.3
10
South Carolina
79.7
6
13.3
12
New Jersey
170.9
13
13.1
13
Texas
403.5
32
12.6
14
Indiana
110.7
9
12.3
15
Rhode Island
24.2
2
12.1
15
Virginia
132.8
11
12.1
17
Oregon
60.2
5
12.0
17
New York
348.6
29
12.0
19
Hawaii
22.5
2
11.3
20
Arkansas
43.6
4
10.9
20
Missouri
98.1
9
10.9
22
North Carolina
138.8
13
10.7
23
Georgia
133.8
13
10.3
24
Kansas
40.4
4
10.1
24
Minnesota
80.8
8
10.1
26
Mississippi
40.0
4
10.0
27
Kentucky
59.5
6
9.9
27
Florida
237.8
24*
9.9
29
Illinois
174.9
19
9.2
30
Montana
9.1
1
9.1
31
Maryland
69.8
8
8.7
32
Pennsylvania
154.2
18*
8.6
33
Iowa
41.5
5
8.3
34
Arizona
64.1
8
8.0
35
Oklahoma
39.1
5
7.8
36
Alabama
53.7
7
7.7
37
Connecticut
37.5
5
7.5
38
Ohio
122.5
18
6.8
39
Nebraska
19.3
3
6.4
40
Idaho
12.2
2
6.1
41
Utah
17.3
3
5.8
42
South Dakota
5.7
1
5.7
43
Nevada
15.3
3
5.1
44
Maine
8.2
2
4.1
45
Colorado
27.7
7
4.0
46
Louisiana
22.4
7
3.2
47
New Hampshire
6.2
2
3.1
47
Vermont
3.1
1
3.1
49
Wyoming
1.1
1
1.1
49
New Mexico
3.3
3
1.1
* Excludes vacant districts in Florida (FL-19) and Pennsylvania (PA-12). Data compiled by Smart Politics from the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.

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