Go to HHH home page.
Smart Politics
 


Could Heath Shuler or Brad Miller Buck History in North Carolina's Gubernatorial Race?

Bookmark and Share

Only four sitting North Carolina U.S. Representatives or U.S. Senators have won a gubernatorial election in state history, and only one in the last 100 years

heathshuler10.jpgThe announcement last week by one-term North Carolina Democratic Governor Bev Perdue that she would not seek reelection this November was not only unprecedented in modern Tar Heel political history, but it also opens up the race to a host of potential big name Democratic candidates.

Perdue is the first North Carolina governor who has not chosen to seek reelection since the state first permitted governors to run for a second consecutive four-year term with Democrat Jim Hunt in the 1980 election cycle.

And now, with Perdue's departure from the race, the Democratic Party is scrambling to field its best replacement to go up against likely Republican nominee, Pat McCrory, the former Mayor of Charlotte.

Two Democratic officeholders from state politics have already announced their candidacy - Lieutenant Governor Walter Dalton and State Representative Bill Faison.

But other names from Washington, D.C. are also being mentioned as potential Democratic challengers, including well-known U.S. Representatives Heath Shuler (pictured above) and Brad Miller.

And while the notion of infusing big names from Washington into the race for the governorship may seem tempting for the Democratic Party, it has not been a well-traveled pathway to victory.

A Smart Politics review of North Carolina gubernatorial elections finds that only four sitting members of the U.S. Senate or U.S. House from the Tar Heel State have been elected governor dating back over 220 years to 1789.

During this span, 326 North Carolinians have been elected to the U.S. House and 54 have been elected or appointed to the U.S. Senate.

But less than a handful have parlayed their active congressional status into a trip to Raleigh.

The most recent sitting member of congress to win the governor's office was Republican Jim Martin in 1984.

Martin was in his sixth term in the U.S. House when he became just the second of two GOPers to win a gubernatorial election in the Tar Heel State in the 20th (or 21st) Century - defeating Democrat Rufus Edmisten by nine points.

Martin's election came more than 75 years since the last sitting North Carolina congressman had won the governorship - Democrat William Kitchin in 1908.

Kitchin, one of four members of his family to serve in Congress, was in his sixth term in the U.S. House when he easily defeated Republican J. Elwood Cox by 14 points that November.

Only two other sitting members of Congress from the state have won a gubernatorial election: six-term Democratic U.S. House member Alfred Scales in 1884 and Federalist Hutchins Burton, a three-term U.S. Representative in 1824.

(Up until the mid-1830s, governors were elected by the North Carolina legislature rather than by popular vote).

Seven other sitting U.S. House members have reached the gubernatorial general election ballot, only to fall short of victory.

Just two of these candidacies were launched since the 1830s: one-term Republican James Gardner, who lost to Democrat Bob Scott in 1968, and one-term Independent-Democrat Tyre York, who was defeated by fellow U.S. House member Democrat Alred Scales in 1884.

Interestingly, four times as many former members of Congress have been subsequently elected governor of North Carolina - 11 from the U.S. House and five from the U.S. Senate - as those running while actively serving in D.C.

The most recent example is Democrat William Umstead, who had served in both the House (1933-1939) and the Senate (1946-1948) before easily winning the gubernatorial election of 1952 by 35 points over Republican Herbert Seawell.

Representative Shuler is currently serving in his third term in Congress while Miller is in his fifth.

Miller has stated he will not run for reelection after redistricting placed him in the same district as fellow Democrat David Price.

Former seven-term Democratic U.S. House member Bob Etheridge has also been mentioned as a potential gubernatorial candidate.

Follow Smart Politics on Twitter.

Previous post: Why is Mitt Romney Feeling Blue? Candidate Necktie Colors at the GOP Debates
Next post: Candidate Code Names: Fun with Anagrams and the 2012 Republican Field

Leave a comment


Remains of the Data

Gender Equality in the US House: A State-by State Quarter-Century Report Card (1989-2014)

A study of 5,325 congressional elections finds the number of female U.S. Representatives has more than tripled over the last 25 years, but the rate at which women are elected to the chamber still varies greatly between the states.

Political Crumbs

Small Club in St. Paul

Mark Dayton is one of just three Minnesotans ever elected to three different statewide offices. Dayton, of course, had previously served as State Auditor (1991-1995) and U.S. Senator (2001-2007) before winning the governorship in 2010. At that time, he joined Republicans Edward Thye and J.A.A. Burnquist on this very short list. Burnquist was elected lieutenant governor in 1914 but then became governor after the death of Democrat Winfield Hammond in 1915. He then won the gubernatorial elections of 1916 and 1918 and eight terms as attorney general two decades later (1939-1955). Thye was similarly first elected lieutenant governor of the Gopher State and became governor after the resignation of fellow GOPer Harold Stasson in 1943. Thye won one additional full term as governor in 1944 and then two terms to the U.S. Senate (1947-1959). Twenty Minnesotans have been elected to two different statewide offices.


Respect Your Elders?

With retirement announcements this year by veteran U.S. Representatives such as 30-term Democrat John Dingell of Michigan, 20-term Democrat George Miller of California, and 18-term Republican Tom Petri of Wisconsin, it is no surprise that retirees from the 113th Congress are one of the most experienced cohorts in recent decades. Overall, these 24 exiting members of the House have served an average of 11.0 terms - the second longest tenure among retirees across the last 18 cycles since 1980. Only the U.S. Representatives retiring in 2006 had more experience, averaging 11.9 terms. (In that cycle, 10 of the 11 retiring members served at least 10 terms, with GOPer Bill Jenkins of Tennessee the lone exception at just five). Even without the aforementioned Dingell, the average length of service in the chamber of the remaining 23 retirees in 2014 is 10.2 terms - which would still be the third highest since 1980 behind the 2006 and 2012 (10.5 terms) cycles.


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