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Paying His Dues: Markey Shatters Senate Record for Prior House Service

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The newest member of the U.S. Senate breaks a record that had been held for 88 years - by a predecessor of his own Senate seat

edmarkey11.jpgEd Markey's victory in Massachusetts' U.S. Senate race Tuesday not only made him one of the oldest candidates to win a special election in the direct election era, but it also earned him a record he now holds all his own.

At one level, Markey's accomplishment is rather pedestrian - becoming the 608th U.S. Senator to first serve in the House of Representatives.

(A few dozen other members of Congress served in the Senate first and then the House, such as Massachusetts' own John Quincy Adams).

But Markey did not just serve in the House - he served longer than any other newly minted Senator in the nation's history.

A Smart Politics study of congressional records finds that Ed Markey served longer in the House of Representatives than any other elected or appointed U.S. Senator in history - demolishing a record that has been held for 88 years by 1,700 days.

Markey has served 36 years, 7 months, and 26 days in the House of Representatives through Thursday, or 13,387 days.

The Senator-elect will continue to pad that total as he waits to be sworn in while the State certifies his election over the coming days.

Markey shatters a mark that had been held for 88 years, when one of his predecessors to the Bay State's Class II Senate seat graduated from the nation's lower to upper chamber during the Calvin Coolidge administration.

Republican Frederick Gillett served 16 full terms and 32 years (11,687 days) from March 4, 1893 to March 3, 1925 in the House of Representatives from Massachusetts' 2nd congressional district.

After serving his last three terms as Speaker of the House, Gillett was elected to the Senate in 1924 and served one term in the chamber from 1925 until his retirement in 1931.

Gillett's record of sweating out 16 terms in the House before getting a Senate seat stood for the next 88 years, until Markey threw his hat into the ring and won John Kerry's old seat this week.

Markey's accomplishment would have been rare even if he had served just half as long in the House of Representatives.

Of the 608 Senators with prior House experience in U.S. history - only 10 had first served at least 10 terms in the lower chamber.

Markey becomes the 11th.

The third longest pre-Senate tenure in the House of Representatives after Markey and Gillett belongs to Jeffersonian-Republican Nathaniel Macon of North Carolina at 13 terms (1791-1815).

Coming in at 12 terms are Jacksonian John Randolph of Virginia (1799-1813; 1815-1817; 1819-1825) and Republican Jim Broyhill of North Carolina (1963-1986).

Most Terms Served in House of Representatives Before Election or Appointment to U.S. Senate

State
Senator
Party
Entered Senate
Prior House service
House terms
MA
Ed Markey
Democrat
2013
1976-2013
20
MA
Frederick Gillett
Republican
1925
1893-1925
16
NC
Nathaniel Macon
Jeffersonian Republican
1815
1791-1815
13
VA
John Randolph
Jacksonian
1825
1799-1813; 1815-1817; 1819-1825
12
NC
Jim Broyhill
Republican
1986
1963-1986
12
KY
Virgil Chapman
Democrat
1949
1925-1929; 1931-1949
11
TN
Cordell Hull
Democrat
1931
1907-1921; 1923-1931
11
MD
Ben Cardin
Democrat
2007
1987-2007
10
AL
John Bankhead
Democrat
1907
1887-1907
10
AL
Oscar Underwood
Democrat
1915
1895-1896; 1897-1915
10
NY
James Mead
Democrat
1938
1919-1938
10
Table compiled by Smart Politics.

Markey Continues a Massachusetts Tradition

With the addition of Markey, now 25 of the 53 U.S. Senators in Massachusetts history first served in the House, or 47.2 percent.

That is the third highest rate in the nation for states that elected (or appointed) U.S. Senators with prior House service.

Massachusetts trails only Hawaii (4 of 7 Senators, 57.1 percent) and Virginia (26 of 54, 48.1 percent).

Markey joins other Bay State notables who cut their teeth in D.C. in the lower legislative chamber before entering the Senate such as Daniel Webster (three terms), Henry Cabot Lodge (four terms), John Kennedy (three terms), and Paul Tsongas (two terms).

Rounding out the Top 10 states are Connecticut and Maryland tied at #4 (44.6 percent), Oklahoma at #6 (41.2 percent), Maine at #7 (40.5 percent), Indiana at #8 (40.0 percent), and Washington and New Hampshire tied at #9 (39.1 percent).

Alaska is the only state never to groom one of its Senators with a stint in the U.S. House, with Oregon (8.1 percent), Wyoming (14.3 percent), Florida (14.7 percent) and Nebraska (16.2 percent) rounding out the bottom five.

Percentage of U.S. Senators Who First Served in the U.S. House by State

Rank
State
# First elected to US House
Total # of Senators
Percent
1
Hawaii
4
7
57.1
2
Virginia
26
54
48.1
3
Massachusetts
25
53
47.2
4
Maryland
25
56
44.6
4
Connecticut
25
56
44.6
6
Oklahoma
7
17
41.2
7
Maine
15
37
40.5
8
Indiana
18
45
40.0
9
Washington
9
23
39.1
9
New Hampshire
25
64
39.1
11
South Dakota
10
26
38.5
12
Vermont
15
40
37.5
13
New York
22
59
37.3
14
Michigan
14
38
36.8
15
Illinois
18
49
36.7
16
Arizona
4
11
36.4
16
Kentucky
24
66
36.4
18
Pennsylvania
19
53
35.8
19
Ohio
20
56
35.7
20
Georgia
21
60
35.0
21
Iowa
11
33
33.3
22
Arkansas
11
34
32.4
23
Mississippi
14
44
31.8
24
Tennessee
18
58
31.0
25
Alabama
12
40
30.0
25
Montana
6
20
30.0
27
South Carolina
17
57
29.8
28
New Mexico
5
17
29.4
29
Colorado
10
35
28.6
29
Wisconsin
8
28
28.6
31
Texas
9
32
28.1
32
North Carolina
15
54
27.8
33
Delaware
14
51
27.5
34
Kansas
9
34
26.5
35
North Dakota
6
23
26.1
36
West Virginia
8
32
25.0
37
Idaho
6
26
23.1
38
California
9
43
20.9
39
Louisiana
10
48
20.8
39
Rhode Island
10
48
20.8
41
Missouri
9
45
20.0
41
Nevada
5
25
20.0
41
New Jersey
13
65
20.0
44
Utah
3
16
18.8
45
Minnesota
7
39
17.9
46
Nebraska
6
37
16.2
47
Florida
5
34
14.7
48
Wyoming
3
21
14.3
49
Oregon
3
37
8.1
50
Alaska
0
7
0.0
Table includes Senators who were elected and appointed to the office, including each state's first two senators elected at statehood. Data compiled by Smart Politics.

Former U.S. Representatives Serving in the U.S. Senate Today

Markey's election to the Senate also brings the current total number of Senators with prior House service to 52 - tied with the 109th Congress for the most since the turn of the 20th Century (U.S. Senate historical records date back only to the 56th Congress).

The 113th Congress falls short of the stand-alone record during this period due to the death in December of long-serving Hawaii U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye who had served two terms in the House at the beginning of his D.C. legislative career.

Among actively-serving U.S. Senators, Maryland Democrat Ben Cardin had the most House experience prior to Markey among his colleagues who had served in the lower chamber.

Cardin served 10 terms from Maryland's 3rd CD prior to his election to the Senate in 2006.

New York Democrat Chuck Schumer had served nine terms in the House with Republican Pat Roberts of Kansas, Democrat Ron Wyden of Oregon, and independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont all serving eight terms.

With the addition of Markey, the average length of time served in the House among these 52 Senators is 4.9 terms.

All but seven did so without a gap in service between the two chambers.

Florida Democrat Bill Nelson had the largest gap of 10 years with Tom Carper (D-DE) at eight, Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Pat Toomey (R-PA) at six, Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Rob Portman (R-OH) at four, and John Thune (R-SD) at two.

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2 Comments


  • Theodore E. Burton of Ohio belongs on this list. When he entered the Senate for the second time in 1928, he had 11 full terms and one partial term in the House: 1889-91, 1895-1909, 1921-Dec. 15, 1928.

  • Yes, the (fine) distinction here (and why Burton didn't make the list) is that Burton only had eight terms in the House prior to his initial service in the Senate - a distinction that could have been more clearly noted in the report.

  • Leave a comment


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