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John Kline: Six Going on Seven?

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Nearly 90 percent of six-term Minnesota U.S. Representatives have been successful in their bids for a 7th term since statehood

johnkline10.jpgWith the forthcoming retirement of Michele Bachmann in Minnesota's most GOP-friendly 6th Congressional District and the continued popularity of Erik Paulsen in the 3rd, John Kline remains the lone possible pick up target for Gopher State Democrats in November 2014.

Kline carried his newly drawn 2nd CD by just 8.2 points against Mike Obermueller in 2012 and may very well face a rematch against him again next year.

Kline had never previously won a congressional race by single digits - not even during the Democratic waves of 2006 (16.2 points against Colleen Rowley) and 2008 (14.8 points against Steve Sarvi) - with average victory margins of 17 points during the five previous cycles.

The Gopher State's 2nd CD now has a Partisan Voting Index tilt of just +2 points for the GOP, making it one of the most middle-of-the-road districts in the nation.

Factoring in Obermueller's likely nomination, Kline's relatively narrow 2012 victory margin, and Democrats targeting his seat this cycle, D.C. prognosticators all have the district on their radar, with Charlie Cook and Larry Sabato ranking it as "likely Republican" and Stuart Rothenberg calling it "Republican favored."

Representative Kline passed up on (admittedly tough) opportunities to challenge one-term incumbents Mark Dayton in the gubernatorial race and Al Franken for the Senate this cycle - races for which he would have probably cleared the GOP field.

Instead, now with six terms under his belt, Kline is seeking a seventh term and history paints a pretty favorable picture that he will once again be successful in his reelection campaign.

A Smart Politics review of Minnesota election data finds that six-term U.S. House incumbents have won reelection 88 percent of the time since statehood.

Of the 134 U.S. Representatives in Minnesota history, Kline is the 40th to be elected to a sixth term.

(Thirty-six did so consecutively while four did so with interrupted service: Republicans Horace Strait, Loren Fletcher, Melvin Maas, and William Pittenger).

Of the previous 39 such House members, six decided not to run for reelection at the end of their sixth term: Republicans Mark Dunnell (in 1882), Horace Strait (1886), Loren Fletcher (1906), Frank Claugue (1932), and Vin Weber (1992) and DFLer Tim Penny (1994).

One U.S. Representative resigned during his sixth term: Republican Walter Newton was appointed Herbert Hoover's personal secretary in 1929.

That leaves 32 six-termers who sought reelection, and 28 of them were successful, or 88 percent, including eight of the last nine over the past 40 years.

Since 1972, the only such incumbent to lose his seat was Republican Gil Gutknecht.

Gutknecht failed in his bid for a seventh term in 2006 to current 1st CD DFL Representative Tim Walz. Walz defeated Gutknecht by 5.6 points.

Members of the Minnesota delegation who won their 7th term during this 40-year span are DFLer Don Fraser (1974), Republican Bill Frenzel (1982), DFLers Jim Oberstar (1986) and Bruce Vento (1988), Republican Arlan Stangeland (1988), DFLer Martin Sabo (1990), Republican Jim Ramstad (2002) and DFLers Collin Peterson (2002) and Betty McCollum (2012).

In addition to Gutknecht, the other three Gopher State U.S. Representatives who lost in their attempt for a seventh term are:

· Republican Harold Hagen (1954): Losing by 2.4 points in the 9th CD to Minnesota's first female member of Congress, Coya Knutson.

· DFLer Roy Wier (1960): Losing by 5.0 points to Clark MacGregor in the 3rd CD.

· Republican Odin Langen (1970): Losing by 8.2 points to Bob Bergland in the 7th CD.

The remaining 20 House members who won a seventh term are Republicans James McCleary (1904), James Tawney (1904), Frederick Stevens (1908), Charles Davis (1914), Andrew Volstead (1914), Halvor Steenerson (1914), Sydney Anderson (1922), Harold Knutson (1928), August Andresen (1938), Melvin Maas (1940), William Pittenger (1944), H. Carol Andersen (1950), Joseph O'Hara (1952), Walter Judd (1956), Al Quie (1968), and Ancher Nelson (1970) and DFLers John Blatnik (1958), Fred Marshall (1960), and Joseph Karth (1970).

Overall, the 28 victorious six-term incumbents won their bid for a seventh term by an average of 34.5 points with only two races decided by single digits.

In 1944, William Pittenger defeated DFLer William McKinnon by 3.2 points in the 8th CD and in 1988 Arlan Stangeland defeated DFLer Mary Hanson by 9.2 points in the 7th CD.

Political Fate of Six-Term Minnesota U.S. Representatives Since Statehood

Year
District
US Representative
Party
7th term bid
MoV
1882
1
Mark Dunnell
Republican
Did not run
---
1886
3
Horace Strait*
Republican
Did not run
---
1904
1
James Tawney
Republican
Won
29.0
1904
2
James McCleary
Republican
Won
28.2
1906
5
Loren Fletcher*
Republican
Did not run
---
1908
4
Frederick Stevens
Republican
Won
26.2
1914
3
Charles Davis
Republican
Won
20.0
1914
7
Andrew Volstead
Republican
Won
100.0
1914
9
Halvor Steenerson
Republican
Won
52.6
1922
1
Sydney Anderson
Republican
Won
14.6
1928
6
Harold Knutson
Republican
Won
32.6
1930
5
Walter Newton
Republican
Resigned
---
1932
2**
Frank Clague
Republican
Did not run
---
1938
1
August Andresen
Republican
Won
29.8
1940
4
Melvin Maas*
Republican
Won
30.6
1944
8
William Pittenger*
Republican
Won
3.8
1950
7
H. Carl Andersen
Republican
Won
23.4
1952
2
Joseph O'Hara
Republican
Won
35.4
1954
9
Harold C. Hagen
Republican
Lost
-2.4
1956
5
Walter Judd
Republican
Won
12.0
1958
8
John Blatnik
DFL
Won
51.2
1960
3
Roy W. Wier
DFL
Lost
-5.0
1960
6
Fred Marshall
DFL
Won
19.2
1968
1
Al Quie
Republican
Won
37.4
1970
2
Ancher Nelsen
Republican
Won
26.6
1970
4
Joseph Karth
DFL
Won
48.4
1970
7
Odin Langen
Republican
Lost
-8.2
1974
5
Don Fraser
DFL
Won
49.1
1982
3
Bill Frenzel
Republican
Won
45.8
1986
8
Jim Oberstar
DFL
Won
45.2
1988
4
Bruce Vento
DFL
Won
45.6
1988
7
Arlan Stangeland
Republican
Won
9.2
1990
5
Martin Sabo
DFL
Won
45.7
1992
2
Vin Weber
Republican
Did not run
---
1994
1
Tim Penny
DFL
Did not run
---
2002
3
Jim Ramstad
Republican
Won
44.1
2002
7
Collin Peterson
DFL
Won
30.7
2006
1
Gil Gutknecht
Republican
Lost
-5.6
2012
4
Betty McCollum
DFL
Won
30.8
* Denotes U.S. Representative with interrupted service en route to six terms. ** In 1932, all nine Minnesota U.S. House seats were elected via at-large races so Clague would not have run for reelection in the 2nd CD. Table compiled by Smart Politics.

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Remains of the Data

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Political Crumbs

Small Club in St. Paul

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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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