Go to HHH home page.
Smart Politics
 


Shays to Seek Connecticut US Senate Seat Despite Narrow Historical Pathway

Bookmark and Share

Only two former U.S. Representatives have been popularly elected to the U.S. Senate in Connecticut; neither won their first Senate race

chrisshays.jpgThe announcement Monday that former Republican U.S. Representative Chris Shays would enter the 2012 Connecticut U.S. Senate race may appeal to Beltway insiders, who appreciate the media-savvy centrist's old-school Republican political pedigree.

However, the pathway to the Senate may be fraught with challenges for the ex-11-term congressman.

Although Shays might be competitive in a general election against both leading Democratic candidates (Congressman Chris Murphy and former Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz), Shays strategically labeled himself an "underdog" right out of the gate.

That designation was probably due to the fact that one of his primary challengers next August will likely be 2010 U.S. Senate nominee Linda McMahon, who already has one Republican establishment candidate under her belt in ex-Congressman Rob Simmons (her 2010 GOP challenger).

In short, Shays will try to avoid being the Rob Simmons (or Mike Castle) of 2012.

However, even if he wins the GOP primary to make it onto the general election ballot, for Shays to become Senator he will need to buck a historical trend in the Constitution State that has rarely seen non-sitting House members elected to the upper legislative chamber.

A Smart Politics study of U.S. Senate elections in Connecticut over the past century finds that although seven of the state's 19 popularly-elected U.S. Senators had previously served in the U.S. House, five of these were sitting representatives at the time of their election.

Both ex-representatives to win Senate seats, Democrats Abraham Ribicoff and Thomas Dodd, had already run previous U.S. Senate campaigns. (Ribicoff had also won two gubernatorial contests in between his time in the House and his second (successful) Senate bid).

Here are the numbers to set the political stage in examining Connecticut U.S. Senate elections over the decades:

· Overall, Connecticut has elected 217 men and women to the U.S. House in state history.

· Of these, 24 would later go on to be elected or appointed to the U.S. Senate (44 percent of the state's 55 U.S. Senators).

· Since popular vote U.S. Senate elections were introduced in Connecticut in 1914, 78 different men and women have been elected to the U.S. House.

· Of these 78 Representatives, just six would go on to win a popular vote U.S. Senate election, or eight percent: Democrats Augustine Lonergan, Francis Maloney, Thomas Dodd, Abraham Ribicoff, and Chris Dodd and Republican Lowell Weicker. (Note: GOPer Frank Brandegee served in the House before popular vote Senate elections were introduced).

Four of these Senators were sitting members of the House at the time of their election:

Democrat Augustine Lonergan was serving in his fourth interrupted term when he defeated two-term Republican incumbent Hiram Bingham by 0.7 points in 1932.

Lonegran had previously lost general election U.S. Senate races in 1920 (at the end of his third term in the House) and 1928 (when he was between his third and fourth terms).

Democrat Francis Maloney defeated one-term GOP incumbent Frederic Walcott by 3.3 points in 1934. Maloney was serving just his first term in the U.S. House when he upset Walcott.

Republican Lowell Weicker won a three-candidate race by 8.0 points over Democrat Joseph Duffy in 1970 in a field that included two-term U.S. Senate incumbent Thomas Dodd. Dodd, who was censured three years prior by the Senate, ran as an independent and lost by 17.3 points finishing in third place. Weicker was in his first term in the U.S. House when he won the race.

Democrat Chris Dodd won an open seat race by 13.4 points over former New York Senator James Buckley in 1980 after Democrat Abraham Ribicoff chose not to seek a fourth term. Dodd was in his third term in the House at the time of the election.

A fifth Representative, Republican Frank Brandegee, was serving his third term in the House when he became a Senator in 1905. However, Brandegee would not be popularly elected until his third term in 1914, in the state's first such election.

Two other Connecticut U.S. Senators were ex-members of the House, like Shays, when they won their seats in the upper legislative chamber.

However, they did not win on their first attempt.

Democrat Abraham Ribicoff was serving his second term in the U.S. House (1949-1952) when he was a candidate in a special election after the death of Democrat Brien McMahon.

Ribicoff lost that race by 2.7 points to Prescott Bush (father of President George H.W. Bush).

Ribicoff would go on to serve two terms as governor of the state before winning his first term in the Senate in the Election of 1962, when he defeated six-term Republican U.S. House member Horace Seely-Brown by 2.5 points.

The Ribicoff vs. Seely-Brown matchup was the last time a former U.S. House member and a sitting U.S. House member squared off in an open seat Senate race in the Constitution State.

Note: If Shays should make it to the general election, his opponent might be a current member of the U.S. House - three-term Democrat Representative Chris Murphy.

Democrat Thomas Dodd was nearing the end of his second term in the U.S. House when he was defeated in 1956 by one-term incumbent Senator Prescott Bush by 11.8 points.

Dodd was out of office in D.C. for two years when he ran again for the Senate in 1958, this time beating incumbent Republican Senator William Purtell by 14.9 points.

Four other ex-congressmen made it to the general election ballot, but fell short in their U.S. Senate bids: Republicans Joseph Talbot (in 1950), John Davis Lodge (1964), Edwin May (1968), and Gary Franks (1998).

Of course, other sitting and former Connecticut U.S. Representatives have run for the Senate, but never made it to the general election ballot, such as sitting two-term Democratic Representative Frank Kowalski in 1962 and former three-term Representative Rob Simmons in 2010.

Shays will officially announce his campaign on October 3 after finishing work on a government commission.

Follow Smart Politics on Twitter.

Previous post: GOP Aims to Hold All North Dakota Seats on Capitol Hill for 1st Time in Over 50 Years
Next post: When Will Wyoming Elect a Democrat to D.C.?

1 Comment


  • Well, this is going to be the toughest Senate race in the state for years. I look forward for a teeth for a teeth competition against his fiercest rival.

  • Leave a comment


    Remains of the Data

    Is There a Presidential Drag On Gubernatorial Elections?

    Only five of the 20 presidents to serve since 1900 have seen their party win a majority of gubernatorial elections during their administrations, and only one since JFK.

    Political Crumbs

    Strike Three for Miller-Meeks

    Iowa Republicans had a banner day on November 4th, picking up both a U.S. Senate seat and one U.S. House seat, but Mariannette Miller-Meeks' defeat in her third attempt to oust Democrat Dave Loebsack in the 2nd CD means the GOP will not have a monopoly on the state's congressional delegation in the 114th Congress. The loss by Miller-Meeks (following up her defeats in 2008 and 2010) means major party nominees who lost their first two Iowa U.S. House races are now 0 for 10 the third time around in Iowa history. Miller-Meeks joins Democrat William Leffingwell (1858, 1868, 1870), Democrat Anthony Van Wagenen (1894, 1912 (special), 1912), Democrat James Murtagh (1906, 1914, 1916), Democrat Clair Williams (1944, 1946, 1952), Democrat Steven Carter (1948, 1950, 1956), Republican Don Mahon (1966, 1968, 1970), Republican Tom Riley (1968, 1974, 1976), Democrat Eric Tabor (1986, 1988, 1990), and Democrat Bill Gluba (1982, 1988, 2004) on the Hawkeye State's Three Strikes list.


    Larry Pressler Wins the Silver

    Larry Pressler may have fallen short in his long-shot, underfunded, and understaffed bid to return to the nation's upper legislative chamber, but he did end up notching the best showing for a non-major party South Dakota U.S. Senate candidate in more than 90 years. Pressler won 17.1 percent of the vote which is the best showing for an independent or third party U.S. Senate candidate in the state since 1920 when non-partisan candidate Tom Ayres won 24.1 percent in a race won by Republican Peter Norbeck. Overall, Pressler's 17.1 percent is good for the second best mark for a non-major party candidate across the 35 U.S. Senate contests in South Dakota history. Independent and third party candidates have appeared on the South Dakota U.S. Senate ballot just 25 times over the last century and only three have reached double digits: Pressler in 2014 and Ayres in 1920 and 1924 (12.1 percent). Pressler's defeat means he won't become the oldest candidate elected to the chamber in South Dakota history nor notch the record for the longest gap in service in the direct election era.


    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