Go to HHH home page.
Smart Politics
 


Pressler's In: Can the Political Rip Van Winkle Win?

Bookmark and Share

A Pressler victory in 2014 would give him the record for the longest gap in U.S. Senate service in the direct election era

larrypressler10.jpgSouth Dakotans won't have Pat O'Brien on the U.S. Senate ballot next November, but they will see a different colorful figure campaigning around the state for the seat of retiring three-term Democrat Tim Johnson.

Former Republican Senator Larry Pressler ended speculation that had percolated throughout the year by announcing on Thursday that he would indeed run for his old seat that Johnson picked off in 1996.

This time, however, Pressler will run as an independent in the Upper Midwestern Republican stronghold - a rare occurrence in a state that can claim only six non-major party candidates across the last 27 U.S. Senate elections conducted since 1938.

(Note: Libertarian Kurt Evans - one of these aforementioned six candidates and the most recent with his 2002 run for Johnson's seat - was attempting to gain ballot access in the Mount Rushmore State for the 2014 contest, but ended his campaign on December 18th).

The campaign launched by Pressler - a candidate in a deep red state who endorsed Barack Obama twice and who calls himself "moderately conservative" - is unlikely on other fronts as well.

First, as Smart Politics previously reported, a Pressler victory in 2014 would make him the oldest South Dakotan ever elected to the chamber.

If Pressler wins back his old Senate seat, he would be 72 years, 7 months, and 6 days old - nearly five years older than the state's current record and nearly twice the age at which he was elected in 1978.

The oldest South Dakotan ever to be elected to the chamber was Democrat William Bulow in 1936 - winning his second of two terms at the age of 67 years, 9 months, 21 days.

Pressler already holds the record for the youngest U.S. Senator elected from South Dakota at 36 years, 7 months, 9 days old - besting a record that had stood in the state for 88 years.

In 1890, Populist James Kyle was elected to the chamber for the first of his two terms at the age of 36 years, 8 months, 11 days, or one month and two days older than Pressler.

A Pressler victory would also be of note nationally - and not simply because of his independent status.

In short, when men and women retire from the Senate or are defeated at the ballot box, they rarely return when more than a full six-year term has passed.

In fact, the former senator would shatter the modern-day mark for the longest gap in service to the nation's upper legislative chamber.

Pressler exited the U.S. Senate on January 3, 1997 and, if elected, would have a full 18-year hiatus from the institution.

Among senators who served entirely during the direct election era of the last 100 years, the longest break in service is 12 years - recently set by Indiana Republican Dan Coats (1989-1999; 2011-present).

(New Hampshire Republican Bob Smith (1990-2003) is attempting to tie that mark as he vies for the seat held by Democrat Jeanne Shaheen in 2014).

Among senators who served entirely during the 20th and/or 21st Centuries, the longest gap is held by Delaware Republican Heisler Ball (1903-1905; 1919-1925) at 14 years, 1 day.

Overall, 150 of the nearly 1,950 men and women to serve in the U.S. Senate had a break in service during their tenure, or 7.7 percent, ranging from a few weeks to more than 25 years.

Of these 150, only seven left the chamber for more than 18 years only to return:

· Maryland Democrat William Whyte (25 years, 3 months, 5 days)
· Tennessee's Andrew Jackson (24 years 11 months, 3 days)
· Indiana Democrat David Turpie (24 years, 1 day)
· Kentucky's Henry Clay (20 years, 8 months, 7 days)
· Illinois/Minnesota/Missouri Democrat James Shields (19 years 10 months, 24 days)
· Louisiana Whig Henry Johnson (19 years, 8 months, 16 days)
· Virginia's John Taylor (19 years, 11 days)

While South Dakota independents may be attracted to Pressler's break-the-partisan-gridlock campaign, opinion is split as to whether his candidacy will appeal more to Democrats (and thus hurt the electoral chances of likely Democratic nominee Rick Weiland) or his old party the GOP (peeling away the natural support of Republican frontrunner and former governor Mike Rounds).

Follow Smart Politics on Twitter.

Previous post: Advantage Walsh in Montana US Senate Race? Not So Fast
Next post: A Year in Smart Politics

Leave a comment


Remains of the Data

Which States Have the Longest and Shortest Election Day Voting Hours?

Residents in some North Dakota towns have less than half as many hours to cast their ballots as those in New York State.

Political Crumbs

Mary Burke: English First?

While multiculturalism and bilingualism are increasingly en vogue in some quarters as the world seemingly becomes a smaller place, one very high profile 2014 Democratic candidate does not shy away from the fact that she only speaks one language: English. In an attempt to highlight her private sector credentials working for Trek Bicycle, Wisconsin Democratic gubernatorial nominee Mary Burke boasts on her campaign bio page how she made great strides in international business dealings...while only speaking English: "Despite not speaking a single foreign language, she established sales and distribution operations in seven countries over just three years." Note: According to 2010 Census data, nearly half a million Wisconsinites over five years old speak a language other than English at home, or 8.7 percent, while 4.6 percent of Badger State residents do not speak English at all.


Does My Key Still Work?

Much has been made about Charlie Crist's political transformation from Republican to independent to Democrat en route to winning the Florida GOP and Democratic gubernatorial nominations over a span of eight years. Party-switching aside, Crist is also vying to become just the second Florida governor to serve two interrupted terms. Democrat William Bloxham was the first - serving four year terms from 1881 to 1885 and then 1897 to 1901. Florida did not permit governors serving consecutive terms for most of its 123 years prior to changes made in its 1968 constitution. Since then four have done so: Democrats Reubin Askew, Bob Graham, and Lawton Chiles and Republican Jeb Bush.


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