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Which 1-Term US Senator Will Fall in 2014?

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First-term Senators account for more than half of all defeated incumbents over the last century; at least one 1-term U.S. Senator has lost reelection in all but four of the 50 election cycles in the direct election era

kayhagan10.jpgSeveral high profile U.S. Senate elections this November feature incumbents who have served in the chamber for more than a decade.

Democrats like Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Mark Pryor of Arkansas along with Republican Mitch McConnell of Kentucky account for many of the cycle's headlines.

That said, it is the institution's greenest members - its one-term incumbents - who will likely see the most turnover and determine the fate of the chamber.

Fifteen of the 36 U.S. Senate races on the ballot this November will involve members who are currently in their first term, or 41 percent of all such contests.

Thirteen of these first-term Senators are Democrats with just two Republicans.

Races involving five of these incumbents are expected to be fairly competitive: Democrats Mark Begich of Alaska, Mark Udall of Colorado, John Walsh of Montana, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, and Kay Hagan of North Carolina (pictured at top).

Three others may very well also face tight contests come November: Al Franken of Minnesota, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, and Mark Warner of Virginia.

One other incumbent, Hawaii's Brian Schatz is at risk of losing his party's nomination when he faces a fierce primary battle in August against U.S. Representative Colleen Hanabusa.

The remaining six U.S. Senators in their first term have safer pathways to return to Capitol Hill in January: Republicans Jim Risch of Idaho and Tim Scott of South Carolina and Democrats Chris Coons of Delaware, Ed Markey of Massachusetts, Cory Booker of New Jersey, and Tom Udall of New Mexico.

And just how vulnerable are first-term Senators running for reelection?

A Smart Politics review of the more than 1,800 U.S. Senate elections conducted since 1914 finds that 52 percent of defeated incumbents were in their first term of office in the chamber.

Overall, 352 U.S. Senators have been defeated across the slightly more than 1,800 special and general elections conducted during the last 50 cycles since 1914 after the passage of the 17th Amendment.

Of these 352 incumbents, 185 were in their first-term, or 52.6 percent of those who fell in defeat at either the nomination or election phase.

(Note: This tally does not include an additional 11 U.S. Senators who were elected to one term, were then appointed just a few days or weeks prior to the start date of that term, and were then defeated when seeking what was technically a third term, not a second. This practice (to boost seniority over fellow classmates) is no longer permitted in the chamber.).

Over the past century, an average of 3.7 first-term U.S. Senators went down to defeat per cycle, with at least one losing in 46 of these 50 election cycles since 1914.

The only cycles in which a first-term incumbent did not suffer such a defeat were in 1960, 1990, 2004, and 2010.

Of course, the number of first-term U.S. Senators running for reelection can vary greatly from cycle to cycle.

During the four cycles in which no first-term incumbent was defeated over the last century, there were only seven (1960), eight (1990), six (2004), and eight (2010) such Senators seeking a second term - a far cry from the 15 running in 2014.

The rate at which incumbents have been defeated has also varied greatly over the decades, with fewer losing in recent years.

From 1914 through 1980, a total of 294 U.S. Senators were defeated in their quest for another term, or 8.6 per cycle.

Since 1982, that number has dropped to 3.6 per cycle (58 incumbents).

First-term U.S. Senators, however, account for virtually the same percentage of these ousted officeholders during these two periods: 53.4 percent from 1914 to 1980 (157 of 294) and 48.3 percent from 1982 to 2012 (28 of 58).

In recent cycles, such defeated first-term U.S. Senators include:

· 1992: Georgia Democrat Wyche Fowler; California Republican John Seymour
· 1994: Pennsylvania Democrat Harris Wofford
· 1996: Kansas Republican Sheila Frahm
· 1998: Illinois Democrat Carol Mosely-Braun; North Carolina Republican Lauch Faircloth
· 2000: Michigan Republican Spence Abraham; Missouri Republican John Ashcroft; Minnesota Republican Rod Grams
· 2002: Arkansas Republican Tim Hutchinson; Georgia Democrat Max Cleland; Missouri Democrat Jean Carnahan
· 2006: Missouri Republican Jim Talent; Virginia Republican George Allen
· 2008: Minnesota Republican Norm Coleman; New Hampshire Republican John Sununu; North Carolina Republican Elizabeth Dole
· 2012: Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown

The cycle with the largest number of defeated incumbents overall came after the Great Depression during the Democratic landslide of 1932 when 14 U.S. Senators were sent packing. Just four of those were in their first term: Democrat Walter Walker of Colorado and Republicans John Thomas of Idaho, Otis Glenn of Illinois, and John Blaine of Wisconsin.

The most first-term incumbents to suffer defeat came in 1918 with 10: Republican John Weeks of Massachusetts and Democrats John Shafroth of Colorado, Willard Saulsbury of Delaware, Thomas Hardwick of Georgia, J. Hamilton Lewis of Illinois, William Thompson of Kansas, James Vardaman of Mississippi, Xenophon Wilfey of Missouri, Henry Hollis of New Hampshire, and Christie Benet of South Carolina.

For Republicans to take back control of the chamber in 2014 they must net six seats, which almost assuredly means the party will need to defeat at least one first-term Democratic U.S. Senator.

The only way that could be avoided would be for the GOP to a) not lose any seats, b) pick up the very winnable open seats in South Dakota and West Virginia, c) defeat veteran lawmakers Mark Pryor and Mary Landrieu, and d) pick up the open seats in Iowa and Michigan.

Defeated U.S. Senate Incumbents by Cycle, 1914-2012

Cycle
1st term
All incumbents
1914
2
2
1916
9
13
1918
10
9
1920
5
11
1922
7
13
1924
6
9
1926
9
11
1928
5
7
1930
8
12
1932
4
14
1934
6
10
1936
3
7
1938
7
9
1940
4
8
1942
7
10
1944
3
9
1946
7
13
1948
6
9
1949
1
1
1950
4
10
1952
5
11
1954
4
8
1956
3
4
1958
3
10
1960
0
1
1962
4
6
1964
4
5
1966
2
4
1968
1
8
1970
3
7
1972
1
7
1974
1
4
1976
4
9
1978
5
10
1980
4
13
1982
1
2
1984
1
3
1986
5
7
1988
2
4
1990
0
1
1992
2
5
1993
1
1
1994
1
2
1996
1
2
1998
2
3
2000
3
6
2002
3
4
2004
0
1
2006
2
6
2008
3
5
2010
0
4
2012
1
2
Total
185
352
* Includes special and general elections. Data compiled by Smart Politics.

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Remains of the Data

Who Has Won the Most Votes in US Senate Electoral History?

Only three of the Top 10 and nine of the Top 50 vote-getters of all time are currently serving in the chamber.

Political Crumbs

Six for Thirteen

Collin Peterson remarked last month that he is leaning to run for reelection to Minnesota's 7th Congressional District in 2016. If he does and is victorious, he will creep even closer to the top of the list of the longest-serving U.S. Representatives in Minnesota history. The DFL congressman is only the sixth Minnesotan to win at least 13 terms to the U.S. House of the 135 elected to the chamber in state history. Peterson trails 18-term DFLer Jim Oberstar (1975-2011), 16-term Republicans Harold Knutson (1917-1949) and August Andresen (1925-1933; 1935-1958), and 14-term DFLers Martin Sabo (1979-2007) and John Blatnik (1947-1974). Andresen died in office, Sabo and Blatnik retired, and Knutson and Oberstar were defeated at the ballot box in 1948 and 2010 respectively. At 70 years, 7 months, 11 days through Monday, Peterson is currently the ninth oldest Gopher State U.S. Representative in history. DFLer Rick Nolan of the 8th CD is the seventh oldest at 71 years, 1 month, 23 days.


Seeing Red

Congressman Nick Rahall's failed bid for a 20th term in West Virginia this cycle, combined with a narrow loss by Nick Casey to Alex Mooney in Shelley Moore Capito's open seat, means that West Virginia Democrats will be shut out of the state's U.S. House delegation for the first time in over 90 years. The Republican sweep by two-term incumbent David McKinley in the 1st CD, Mooney in the 2nd, and Evan Jenkins over Rahall in the 3rd marks the first time the GOP has held all seats in the chamber from West Virginia since the Election of 1920. During the 67th Congress (1921-1923) all six seats from the state were controlled by the GOP. Since the Election of 1922, Democrats have won 76 percent of all U.S. House elections in the Mountain State - capturing 172 seats compared to 54 for the GOP.


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