Go to HHH home page.
Smart Politics
 


The Vanishing Center: Exiting US Representatives

Bookmark and Share

More than half of the U.S. Representatives retiring in 2014 are within 10 points of the ideological center of the chamber according to National Journal's new vote ratings, compared to just one of 14 members running for higher office

jonrunyan10.jpgMuch has been made in recent months as retirements by U.S. Representatives began to mount and more and more lawmakers decided not to run for reelection this November.

One common narrative accounting for these exits is that many centrists are departing the chamber: with the U.S. House becoming more polarized in recent years, increased partisan gridlock has rendered the centrists increasingly ineffectual (and no doubt increasingly frustrated).

National Journal's recently released 2013 vote ratings yields data to back this narrative - with an added wrinkle.

While many of those retiring from the U.S. House are among the most centrist in the chamber, those exiting to run for higher office are among the most ideological.

To date, 17 U.S. Representatives have announced their retirement at the end of the term (those not seeking higher office) - 10 Republicans and seven Democrats.

Fifteen of these lawmakers were scored by National Journal for the 2013 votes (two missed more than half of the key votes for the publication's scored legislation: California Republican John Campbell and New York Democrat Carolyn McCarthy).

More than half of these 15 U.S. House members are within 10 percentage points of the ideological center of the chamber - five Republicans and three Democrats.

New Jersey GOPer Jon Runyan is the closest to the center among these eight representatives at just 2.5 points from the 50th percentile, compiling a composite liberal score of 47.5 and composite conservative score of 52.5.

(The respective scores mean Runyan's key votes in 2013 were more liberal than 47.5 percent of the chamber and more conservative than 52.5 percent).

Runyan's announcement last November turned heads as he was the first Garden State sophomore U.S. Representative not to run for a third term or seek higher office in 65 years - ending a string of 56 representatives in a row since 1948.

Seven-term Utah Democrat Jim Matheson is the next most centrist 2014 retiree based on last year's voting record - coming in at 2.7 points off the 50th percentile mark (52.7 liberal, 47.3 conservative).

The other six centrist 2014 retirees are:

· North Carolina Democrat Mike McIntyre (NC-07): 4.2 points off the ideological center (52.2 LIB, 45.8 CON)
· New York Democrat Bill Owens (NY-21): 5.3 points (55.3 LIB, 44.7 CON)
· Iowa Republican Tom Latham (IA-03): 7.8 points (42.2 LIB, 57.8 CON)
· California Republican Buck McKeon (CA-25): 9.3 points (40.7 LIB, 59.3 CON)
· Alabama Republican Spencer Bachus (AL-02): 9.5 points (40.5 LIB, 59.5 CON)
· Virginia Republican Frank Wolf (VA-10): 9.8 points (40.2 LIB, 59.8 CON)

One other U.S. Representative - Pennsylvania Republican Jim Gerlach - nearly made the list at just 11 points from the ideological center of the chamber.

The remaining six retirees were considerably more ideological: Democrats George Miller of California (34.0 points), Jim Moran of Virginia (33.2 points), and Henry Waxman of California (32.7 points) and Republicans Michele Bachmann of Minnesota (32.8 points), Tim Griffin of Arkansas (24.7 points), and Howard Coble of North Carolina (22.8 points).

As for the two retirees who did not have enough votes for National Journal to score in 2014, John Campbell was only three points off the ideological center in 2012 (47.0 LIB, 53.0 CON) while Carolyn McCarthy was more ideological at 16.5 points (66.5 LIB, 33.5 CON).

Distance from Ideological Center Among 2014 U.S. House Retirees

District
US Representative
Party
Points*
NJ-03
Jon Runyan
Republican
2.5
UT-04
Jim Matheson
Democrat
2.7
NC-07
Mike McIntyre
Democrat
4.2
NY-21
Bill Owens
Democrat
5.3
IA-03
Tom Latham
Republican
7.8
CA-25
Buck McKeon
Republican
9.3
AL-02
Spencer Bachus
Republican
9.5
VA-10
Frank Wolf
Republican
9.8
PA-06
Jim Gerlach
Republican
11.0
NC-06
Howard Coble
Republican
22.8
AR-02
Tim Griffin
Republican
24.7
CA-33
Henry Waxman
Democrat
32.7
MN-06
Michele Bachmann
Republican
32.8
VA-08
Jim Moran
Democrat
33.2
CA-11
George Miller
Democrat
34.0
* Denotes percentage points from the 50th percentile, or the ideological center of the House of Representatives. Table compiled by Smart Politics with 2013 National Journal Vote Ratings data.

For those who envision the U.S. Senate restoring its once-held reputation as the less partisan and more cooperative legislative chamber, consider this:

Of the 14 U.S. Representatives exiting the chamber in hopes of winning higher elected office (12 running for the U.S. Senate and two running for governor), only one scored within 10 points of the ideological center.

That lawmaker was Georgia congressman Paul Broun at 9.2 points from the 50th percentile (40.8 LIB, 59.2 CON) - one of three GOP U.S. Representatives from the Peach State running for Saxby Chambliss' seat.

The other two - Jack Kingston and Phil Gingrey - are 40.0 points and 38.7 points respectively away from the ideological center of the House on the 100-point scale.

Overall, the 14 U.S. Representatives seeking higher office scored an average of 23.5 points from the ideological center while the 15 scored retirees came in at 16.2 points from the center.

Distance from Ideological Center Among 2014 U.S. Representatives Running for Higher Office

District
US Representatives
Party
Points*
GA-10
Paul Broun
Republican
9.2
MI-14
Gary Peters
Democrat
11.0
WV-02
Shelley Moore Capito
Republican
13.2
ME-02
Mike Michaud
Democrat
18.7
PA-13
Allyson Schwartz
Democrat
19.0
AR-04
Tom Cotton
Republican
20.7
TX-36
Steve Stockman
Republican
20.7
HI-01
Colleen Hanabusa
Democrat
23.0
MT-AL
Steve Daines
Republican
24.7
IA-01
Bruce Braley
Democrat
26.2
OK-05
James Lankford
Republican
30.0
LA-06
Bill Cassidy
Republican
34.2
GA-11
Phil Gingrey
Republican
38.7
GA-01
Jack Kingston
Republican
40.0
* Denotes percentage points from the 50th percentile, or the ideological center of the House of Representatives. Table compiled by Smart Politics with 2013 National Journal Vote Ratings data.

Note: It should be added that no matter how polarized a particular Congress may be, there will always be a numerical 'center.' That is to say, those names appearing in the middle of the National Journal rankings from each party may be much more ideological in their voting behavior than legislators similarly in the middle from, say, two or three decades ago, but are nonetheless called centrist lawmakers today.

Follow Smart Politics on Twitter.

Previous post: Collin Peterson: My Coffers Are Fine, Thank You Very Much
Next post: Georgia's Republican US Senate Primary: A Race for the Ages?

Leave a comment


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

Final Four Has Presidential Approval

By edging Michigan in the final seconds Sunday, the University of Kentucky guaranteed that one school in the Final Four this year would be located in a state that was not carried by President Barack Obama in 2012. (Connecticut, Florida, and Wisconsin had previously earned Final Four slots over the weekend). Across the 76 Final Fours since 1939, an average of 3.1 schools have been located in states won by the president's ticket during the previous election cycle. All four schools have come from states won by the president 29 times, with the most recent being the 2009 Final Four featuring Connecticut, Michigan State, North Carolina, and Villanova. On 30 occasions three Final Four schools have been located in states won by the president, with two schools 11 times and only one school six times (the most recent being 2012 with Kansas, Kentucky, Louisville, and Ohio State). There has never been a Men's NCAA Division I Final Four in which no schools were located in states carried by the president's ticket.


Three for the Road

A new Rasmussen Poll shows Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker in a dead heat with likely 2014 Democratic nominee Mary Burke. Walker is seeking to win his third consecutive election after prevailing in 2012's recall contest. Eight of his predecessors accomplished this feat: Republicans Lucius Fairchild (in 1869), Jeremiah Rusk (1886), Robert La Follette (1904), Emanuel Philipp (1918), John Blaine (1924), Walter Kohler (1954), Warren Knowles (1968), and Tommy Thompson (1994). Three others Badger State governors lost on their third campaign: Democrat George Peck (1894), Progressive Philip La Follette (1938), and Republican Julius Heil (1942). One died in office before having the opportunity to win a third contest (GOPer Walter Goodland in 1947) while another resigned beforehand (Democrat Patrick Lucey in 1977 to become Ambassador to Mexico). Overall Wisconsin gubernatorial incumbents have won 35 of 47 general election contests, or 74.5 percent of the time.


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