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Will Snowe Retirement Give Maine Democrats Rare Congressional Delegation Majority?

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Democrats have held a majority of U.S. Senate and U.S. House seats from Maine for just seven out of 79 cycles since the formation of the GOP in the 1850s

olympiasnowe10.JPGTuesday's announcement by three-term U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe that she would not seek reelection this November may have pleased conservatives and Tea Party members who were frustrated by her moderate voting record, but it was undoubtedly a blow to the Republican Party as they seek to gain control of the nation's upper legislative chamber.

Snowe's seat moves from safe Republican to an instant toss-up in which both parties will be scrambling for their best candidate.

And now, presuming Democrats hold each of the state's two congressional districts in 2012 - both of which have remained blue since the Election of 1996 - the Party has its best chance to land a majority of seats in the state's congressional delegation for the first time in nearly 40 years.

A Smart Politics review of Maine electoral history finds that Democrats have held a majority of U.S. Senate and U.S. House seats from the Pine Tree State for just seven of 79 electoral cycles since the formation of the Republican Party in 1854.

By contrast, Republicans have held a majority of seats in Maine's congressional delegation for 57 cycles, with the two parties deadlocked 15 times, including each of the last eight.

The last time Democrats held a majority of Maine's seats on Capitol Hill was during the 93rd Congress from 1973-1974 when Edmund Muskie and William Hathaway sat in the Senate and Peter Kyros represented the 1st CD.

Democrats also held a majority of seats in the 62nd (1911-1912), 73rd (1933-1934), 86th (1959-1960), 90th (1967-1968), 91st (1969-1970), and 92nd (1971-1972) Congresses.

Maine, like many northeastern states, used to be a haven for Republicans since the formation of the GOP.

In fact, the Democratic Party has never held all U.S. Senate and House seats in Maine, while Republicans have enjoyed a clean sweep of the delegation to Capitol Hill during 84 of the last 158 years, or 53 percent of the time.

Of course, should either U.S. Representatives Chellie Pingree or Michael Michaud run for Snowe's seat, Democrats will have to work a bit harder to keep that open seat blue in November.

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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.


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