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The Shortest Tenures of Louisiana US Reps in History

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Vance McAllister's political half-life may be running out, but he won't quite have the briefest stint in the U.S. House from the Pelican State - that would be Effingham Lawrence at just one day.

vancemcallister11.jpgFor the second day in a row, Louisiana Republican Vance McAllister did not show up to vote in the U.S. House of Representatives as a video documenting his extramarital encounter with a former staffer made headlines across the country.

As of Monday evening, McAllister gave no indication he would resign and, in fact, stated he was planning on running for reelection - barring an outcry from his constituents.

While it is unclear in what form that would need to take, there was a decided outcry Tuesday from the husband of the woman seen kissing the congressman in the surveillance video. Heath Peacock appeared on CNN Tuesday saying he was "devastated" and that McAllister "wrecked his life" and he was now seeking a divorce as a result.

Even if McAllister does resign in the coming days, the Louisiana U.S. Representative - who just got his job in mid-November after winning a special election - will not quite have the shortest stint in the chamber in state history.

Smart Politics dug into the data and found that 22 of the 165 Louisiana U.S. House members in state history have served for less than one full term since statehood, or 13 percent (including McAllister).

McAllister, who took office on November 16th of last year, has been on the job for 4 months and 24 days (144 days) through Wednesday, currently good for the eighth shortest tenure on the all-time service list in the chamber from the Pelican State.

If the scandal-plagued congressman does not resign but either retires at the end of this term or runs for reelection and is defeated at the ballot box, he will end up with the 15th shortest tenure from Louisiana at 1 year, 1 month, 18 days (413 days).

Although many Louisiana U.S. Representatives have served less than a term since statehood, very few have done so over the last 100+ years.

Of the 21 previous Louisiana U.S. Representatives to notch less than a full term in the chamber, only four served outside of the 1800s: Democrats Richard Tonry, Don Cazayoux, Samuel Gilmore, and John Overton.

One of these resigned and ended up in prison, another died in office, and a third exited after being elected to the U.S. Senate - scenarios that do not seem likely in the case of McAllister.

Samuel Gilmore was a city attorney in New Orleans when he won a special election in March 1909 to fill the vacancy after the death of Democrat Robet Davey.

Gilmore served just 1 year, 3 months, and 18 days before he died in July 1910.

John Overton was also elected via special election, in May 1931, after the death of Democrat James Aswell.

Overton's stint in the House ended 1 year, 9 months, 19 days later, but in the meantime he was elected to the U.S. Senate, where he served until his death in 1948.

Richard Tonry was a member of the Louisiana House when he was elected to Louisiana's 1st CD in 1976 in a plurality win over Republican Bob Livingston.

A Federal investigation into ballot-stuffing and taking illegal campaign contributions led to a guilty plea, a half-year in prison, and his resignation from Congress after just 121 days in office.

(Tonry then ran in the 1977 special election for his old seat, but lost in the Democratic primary to Ron Faucheux who was then defeated by Livingston).

Don Cazayoux was also a member of the Louisiana House when he won a 6th CD special election in May 2008 to fill Richard Baker's longtime Republican-held seat.

Cazayoux served eight months (245 days) but lost his reelection bid in November 2008 by 7.8 points to Bill Cassidy.

But although the congressional career of McAllister may be short, it does not compare to the blink-and-you'll-miss-him tenure of Effingham Lawrence.

For he served just one day.

Lawrence, a Democratic State Representative, ran for Louisiana's 1st Congressional District in the Election of 1872.

The district - like much of the South - had been under Republican control during Reconstruction with GOPer J. Hale Sypher winning the seat by 20+-point margins in 1868 and 1870.

In 1872, the election was much closer with Sypher edging Lawrence by just 74 votes.

As was common in the day, Lawrence contested the election and was eventually declared the winner.

However, Lawrence was not seated until March 3, 1875 - the last day of the 43rd Congress - and thus tallied a congressional tenure of just one day.

Democrats would win the 1st CD seat (without Lawrence as the nominee) in 1874, and hold it until Bob Livingston's special election victory in 1977 mentioned above.

Rounding out the Top 10 Louisiana U.S. Representatives with the shortest service are Democrat James Mann at #2 (39 days, 1868), Democrat Nathaniel Wallace at #3 (84 days, 1886-1887), Liberal Republican Aleck Boarman (1872-1873) and Unionist Benjamin Flanders (1862-1863) at #4 (90 days), Democrat John Young at #6 (118 days, 1878-1879), Democrat William Spencer at #9 (214 days), and Republicans William Blackburn (1868-1869) and Michel Vidal (1868-1869) at #10 (228 days).

Shortest Tenures of Louisiana U.S. Representatives Since Statehood

Rank
Representative
Party
Years in office
# Days
1
Effingham Lawrence
Democrat
1875
1
2
James Mann
Democrat
1868
39
3
Nathaniel Wallace
Democrat
1886-1887
84
4
Aleck Boarman
Liberal Republican
1872-1873
90
4
Benjamin Flanders
Unionist
1862-1863
90
6
John Young
Democrat
1878-1879
118
7
Richard Tonry
Democrat
1977
121
8
Vance McAllister
Republican
2013-2014
144*
9
William Spencer
Democrat
1876-1877
214
10
William Blackburn
Republican
1868-1869
228
10
Michel Vidal
Republican
1868-1869
228
12
Donald Cazayoux
Democrat
2008-2009
245
13
James McCleery
Republican
1871
246
14
John Leonard
Republican
1877-1878
376
15
Pierre Bossier
Democrat
1843-1844
417
16
George Smith
Republican
1873-1875
464
17
Michael Hahn
Unionist / Republican
1862-1863; 1885-1886
466
18
Samuel Gilmore
Democrat
1909-1910
475
19
Joseph Newsham
Republican
1868-1869; 1870-1871
512
20
Charles Conrad
Whig
1849-1850
531
21
Catherine Long
Democrat
1985-1987
644
22
John Overton
Democrat
1931-1933
661
* Through Wednesday, April 9, 2014. Table compiled by Smart Politics.

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