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One and Done: The Unusual Exit of Gloria Negrete McLeod

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Negrete McLeod is one of just two U.S. Representatives out of the more than 210 California freshmen elected to the chamber since World War II not to run for a second term or seek a U.S. Senate seat

glorianegretemcleod10.jpgThe mounting departures from the House of Representatives continued this week with the announced retirement of veteran Democratic legislator Rush Holt of New Jersey and the news that Democratic freshman Gloria Negrete McLeod of California was running for county office instead.

Negrete McLeod was elected to Congress in November 2012 to the Golden State's 35th Congressional District, but after just 1 year, 1 month, and 15 days in office she announced she would not seek reelection and would instead seek a seat on the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors.

So just how unusual is the congresswoman's (voluntary) abrupt exit from the chamber?

A Smart Politics review of the political fates of the 216 freshmen California U.S. Representatives to enter the chamber since the end of World War II finds that only two - including Negrete McLeod - did not run for reelection or campaign for a U.S. Senate seat.

Since 1945, a total of 181 of 198 freshman U.S. House members from the Golden State were reelected to a second term, or 91.4 percent.

Sixteen freshmen lost in the general election while one lost his party's nomination.

Another 13 U.S. Representatives from California are currently serving in their first term in the 113th Congress and are in the midst of their 2014 reelection bids: Republicans Paul Cook and Doug LaMalfa and Democrats Ami Bera, Julia Brownley, Tony Cardenas, Jared Huffman, Alan Lowenthal, Scott Peters, Raul Ruiz, Eric Swallwell, Mark Takano, David Valadao, and Juan Vargas.

That leaves just five freshmen, one of whom died in office (Democrat Walter Capps in 1997) while two ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate: Democrat Ellis Patterson in 1946 and Republican Michael Huffington in 1994.

And so only two first-term California U.S. Representatives over the last 68 years did not run for reelection or seek higher office - Negrete McLeod and Democrat Everett Burkhalter in 1964.

Political Fate of California Freshman U.S. Representatives Since 1945

Outcome
#
Percent
Won 2nd term
181
83.8
Lost general election
16
7.4
Lost nomination
1
0.5
Running in 2014 (TBD)
13
6.0
Died in office
1
0.5
Retired
1
0.5
Ran for other office
3*
1.4
Total
216
100.0
* Includes Gloria Negrete McLeod. Table compiled by Smart Politics.

This temptation to stay in D.C. lies in stark contrast to the tenures of California's early U.S. Representatives who took office during the first few decades since statehood.

Of the 19 California freshman to hold office in the lower chamber from 1850 through 1866, 15 did not seek a second term, or 79 percent. (Two were reelected, one lost his party's nomination, and one lost the general election).

Negrete McLeod's departure from D.C. is also very unusual when examined through the subset of women elected to the chamber over the last century.

Overall, 260 women have been elected to the office of U.S. Representative since 1916, of which 235 ran for a second term, or 90.4 percent.

· 190 of these were victorious
· 25 lost in the general election
· 4 lost their party's nomination
· 16 are currently in their first term seeking reelection in 2014

That leaves 25 women who did not seek a second term.

Of these, 18 were not elected to a full term - each winning special elections, including 17 who won seats vacated by the death of their husbands.

A 19th woman, Illinois Republican Edna Simpson, was elected to a full term, but under very unusual circumstances.

Simpson was elected in 1958 when her name was put on the ballot at the 11th hour after her husband (eight-term incumbent Sidney Simpson) had won the GOP nomination but died nine days before Election Day.

Of the remaining six female first-term U.S. Representatives, three ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate.

The first of these was Montana Republican Jeannette Rankin in 1918 (the first congresswoman in U.S. history), followed by Illinois Republican Ruth McCormick in 1930, and Georgia Democrat Denise Majette in 2004.

Two others did not run for any office with one of these pressured to step aside due to scandal.

New York Republican Winifred Stanley (1943-1945) was the first woman elected to a full term not to run for reelection or a U.S. Senate seat in 1944. She took a position with the New York State Employees' Retirement System in 1945 instead.

After the aforementioned Edna Simpson retired in 1960, Utah Republican Enid Greene Waldholtz (1995-1997) was the last to retire in 1996.

Greene's single term included the rare occurrence of a sitting member of the chamber giving birth while in office, but she was soon beset by numerous allegations of campaign finance irregularities.

Greene's husband was charged with embezzling money from her father for the purposes of channeling the money into millions of fake donations to her 1994 campaign.

That leaves Gloria Negrete McLeod - only the fourth first-term female U.S. Representative elected to a full term (including Simpson) to not run for reelection or a U.S. Senate seat.

Political Fate of First-Term Female U.S. Representatives

Outcome
#
Percent
Won 2nd term
190
73.1
Lost general election
25
9.6
Lost nomination
4
1.5
Running in 2014 (TBD)
16
6.2
Did not run (won special election)
18
6.9
Did not run (elected to full term)
3
1.2
Ran for other office
4*
1.5
Total
260
100.0
* Includes Gloria Negrete McLeod. Table compiled by Smart Politics.

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