Go to HHH home page.
Smart Politics
 


Tim Kaine's Ball and Chain: His DNC Past

Bookmark and Share

Only one party chair has successfully entered or reentered political office by winning a U.S. Senate seat in the last 100 years

timkaine05.jpgTim Kaine seems to have met political expectations by getting out of the gate with $2.25 million raised during the 2nd Quarter of 2011.

The former Virginia Governor has now moved slightly ahead in cash on hand over his likely Republican opponent - former Senator George Allen, who declared his candidacy nearly three months before Kaine and has raised over $2.5 million to date.

But raising money was not expected to be a problem for the well-connected Kaine, who spent the last two years as Chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

But will Virginians see the DNC bullet point on Kaine's resume as an asset or a liability when deciding between the two high profile candidates next year?

A Smart Politics study of historical election returns over the past 100 years finds that several Democratic and Republican Party chairmen have attempted an entry (or reentry) into political office during or after their chairmanship, but only one has successfully done so by winning a U.S. Senate seat.

Of course, political careers are not ended per se simply because an individual becomes a party chair for one of the two major parties.

Over the last generation, former party chairs have gone on to win the presidency (George H.W. Bush), governorships (Haley Barbour in Mississippi, Ed Rendell in Pennsylvania), and even a State Treasurer post (Steven Grossman in Massachusetts).

Additionally, several party chairmen who were sitting U.S. Senators at the time of their tenure were able to get reelected to the nation's upper legislative chamber: Kentucky Republican Thruston Morton in 1962, Washington Democrat Scoop Jackson in 1964, Kansas Republican Bob Dole in 1974, and Connecticut Democrat Chris Dodd in 1998.

(One popularly elected Senator, Ohio Republican Simeon Fess in 1934, lost his reelection bid coming off the end of his chairmanship in 1932).

Kaine, however, isn't an incumbent, and may have difficulty campaigning in a purple state like Virginia with such deep blue partisan colorings from his recent political past - inextricably linked to the national Party after a two-year reign as its lead spokesman.

Moreover, Kaine is trying to navigate a political trail that has not been cleared in decades.

In fact, the one individual who made the leap from party chair to the U.S. Senate, with no other elected office in between, did so 95 years ago.

In 1916, former Republican Chair Harry New (1907-1908) was elected to the U.S. Senate seat in his home state of Indiana when he narrowly defeated Democratic incumbent John Kern.

New's stay in the Senate was short-lived however, failing to receive his party's nomination six years later in 1922.

Two other former party chairs were eventually elected to the U.S. Senate, but were first elected to several terms in the U.S. House as a stepping-stone.

Tennessee Democrat Cordell Hull (1921-1924) returned to the U.S. House winning the elections of 1922, 1924, 1926, and 1928 before winning the Volunteer State's U.S. Senate race in 1930.

Massachusetts Republican Hugh Scott (1948-1949) continued to serve in the U.S. House after his chairmanship ended by winning the elections of 1950, 1952, 1954, and 1956 before winning his first of three terms in the U.S. Senate in 1958.

The list of failed U.S. Senate candidacies launched by party chairs over the last century is rather extensive:

· In 1916, former Democratic Chair Thomas Taggart (1904-1908) lost a special U.S. Senate election in Indiana by less than 10,000 votes to Republican James Watson. Taggart had been appointed to the seat by Democratic Governor Samuel Ralston earlier that March.

· In 1916, Democrat Party Chairman William McCombs (1912-1916) lost his New York U.S. Senate race by 15 points to GOPer William Calder.

· In 1920, Indiana Democrat Thomas Taggart made another run for the same seat he lost in 1916, but this time was defeated in his rematch against James Watson by over 13 points.

· In 1926, Republican Party Chair William Butler (1924-1928) lost a special election in Massachusetts by 5 points to Democrat David Walsh. Butler had been appointed to the Senate seat in 1924.

· In 1930, Butler ran for the Bay State's other Senate seat, but lost by 9 points to Democrat Marcus Coolidge.

· In 1934 and 1938 former Democratic Party Chair George White (1920-1921) failed to win his party's nomination for the U.S. Senate races in his home state of Ohio.

White had been elected governor of the Buckeye State in 1930 and 1932.

· In 1934, former Democratic Party Chair Clem Shaver (1924-1928) failed to win his party's nomination for the U.S. Senate contest in West Virginia.

· In 1948, Republican Party Chairman Carroll Reece (1946-1948) was trounced by 31 points in Tennessee's U.S. Senate election won by Democrat Estes Kefauver.

· In 1960, former Democrat Party Chair James McGrath (1947-1949) lost his nomination bid for Rhode Island's U.S. Senate seat. McGrath had previously been elected to the Senate for one term in 1946 before resigning from both his seat and chairmanship in 1949 to become U.S. Attorney General under Harry Truman.

· In 1994, former Republican Party Chair William Brock (1977-1981) lost his bid for a U.S. Senate seat in Maryland when three-term Democratic incumbent Paul Sarbanes defeated him by 18 points.

· In 2008, former Republican Party Chair Jim Gilmore (2001-2002) was routed by Democrat Mark Warner by 31 points in a battle of former governors of the State of Virginia.

The key for Kaine in 2012 will be his ability to maneuver his statewide candidacy around a currently unpopular national Democratic Party, and transform himself from the Party's national face to once again representing Virginia's interests.

Of course, if Virginians are looking for a D.C. outsider in 2012, perhaps Kaine's DNC past may not be as much of a liability, given the fact that his likely Republican opponent George Allen already has six years in the Senate under his belt.

Follow Smart Politics on Twitter.

Previous post: Will Any Century-Long Streaks End in 2012 U.S. Senate Races?
Next post: Nebraska Cornhuskers Salivating Over Big 10 Opponents

1 Comment


  • This is the same author who was extolling how the great state of South Carolina picks the GOP nominee.

    Guess his crystal ball is as cracked as his politics.

  • Leave a comment


    Remains of the Data

    Which States Own the Best Track Record in Backing Eventual GOP Presidential Nominees?

    Nine states (each with primaries) have an unblemished record in voting for the eventual Republican nominee since 1976 - and not all host contests on the back end of the calendar.

    Political Crumbs

    Evolving?

    When Scott Walker "punted" back in February after being asked if he was comfortable with the idea of evolution he added, "That's a question a politician shouldn't be involved in one way or the other." However, it may very well be a question that is asked at one of the upcoming GOP debates this year. In South Carolina during the first GOP debate in 2012, FOX News' Juan Williams asked Tim Pawlenty, "Do you equate the teaching of creationism with the teaching of evolution as the basis for what should be taught for our nation's schools?" Pawlenty replied, "There should be room in the curriculum for study of intelligent design" but that it was up to the local school districts if it should be in a science class or comparative theory class. At the fourth Republican debate held in California, Jon Huntsman addressed the GOP becoming "anti-science" thusly: "Listen, when you make comments that fly in the face of what 98 out of 100 climate scientists have said, when you call into question the science of evolution, all I'm saying is that, in order for the Republican Party to win, we can't run from science. We can't run from mainstream conservative philosophy."


    73 Months and Counting

    January's preliminary Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers show Minnesota's unemployment rate of 3.7 percent was once again lower than Wisconsin's 5.0 percent. That marks the 73rd consecutive month in which Minnesota has boasted a lower jobless rate than its neighbor to the east dating back to January 2009 including each of the last 67 months by at least one point. The Gopher State has now edged Wisconsin in the employment border battle for 204 of the last 216 months dating back to February 1997. Wisconsin only managed a lower unemployment rate than Minnesota for the 12 months of 2008 during this 18-year span.


    more POLITICAL CRUMBS

    Humphrey School Sites
    CSPG
    Humphrey New Media Hub

    Issues />

<div id=
    Abortion
    Afghanistan
    Budget and taxes
    Campaign finances
    Crime and punishment
    Economy and jobs
    Education
    Energy
    Environment
    Foreign affairs
    Gender
    Health
    Housing
    Ideology
    Immigration
    Iraq
    Media
    Military
    Partisanship
    Race and ethnicity
    Reapportionment
    Redistricting
    Religion
    Sexuality
    Sports
    Terrorism
    Third parties
    Transportation
    Voting