Thad Cochran’s Passing Leaves Mississippi with 1 Living Ex-US Senator
Three states have no living former members of the upper legislative chamber while six states have just one
Mississippi Republican Thad Cochran resigned from his seat almost 14 months ago and on Thursday the former three-term U.S. Representative and seven-term U.S. Senator died at the age of 81.
Cochran lived to be the fourth oldest sitting or former U.S. Senator from Mississippi (81 years, 5 months, 24 days) behind only Republican Adelbert Ames (1870-1874; 97 years, 5 months, 13 days), Democrat John Stennis (1947-1989; 93 years, 8 months, 21 days), and Democrat Jefferson Davis (1847-1851, 1857-1861; 81 years, 6 months, 4 days).
Cochran’s passing leaves the Magnolia State with just one living former member of the chamber – 77 year-old Trent Lott.
Mississippi is one of six states that has only one surviving ex-member of the U.S. Senate along with Ohio (Republican Mike DeWine), Pennsylvania (Republican Rick Santorum), Rhode Island (Republican-turned-independent-turned Democrat Lincoln Chafee), South Carolina (Republican Jim DeMint), and Wyoming (Republican Alan Simpson).
Three states currently have none: Hawaii, Kentucky, and Vermont.
Hawaii’s last living ex-senator was Democrat Daniel Akaka who died in 2018 at the age of 93. The Aloha State has had only seven senators since statehood including its current delegation.
Kentucky has had one former senator pass away during each of the last four years: Democrat Wendell Ford in 2015 (age 90), Republican Marlow Cook in 2016 (89), Republican Jim Bunning in 2017 (85), and Democrat Walter Huddleston in 2018 (92).
Vermont’s last living former senator was Republican-turned-independent Jim Jeffords who died in 2014 (age 80). The only other such lawmaker from Vermont to pass away this century was Republican Robert Stafford in 2006 (93).
Nine states have a pair of former U.S. Senators still living: Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and West Virginia.
Two states have the largest number in this category with seven each:
- Colorado: Democrat Gary Hart (1975-1987), Democrat Tim Wirth (1987-1993), Republican Hank Brown (1991-1997), Democrat-turned-Republican Ben Nighthorse Campbell (1993-2005), Republican Wayne Allard (1997-2009), Democrat Ken Salazar (2005-2009), and Democrat Mark Udall (2009-2015)
- Minnesota: DFLer Walter Mondale (1964-1976), Republican David Durenberger (1978-1995), Republican Rudy Boschwitz (1978-1991), DFLer Mark Dayton (2001-2007), Independence Party appointee Dean Barkley (2002-2003), Republican Norm Coleman (2003-2009), and DFLer Al Franken (2009-2018)
Four states have six living former senators (Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Missouri) and eight states have five (Arkansas, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Tennessee, and Virginia).
After the passing of Senator Cochran, there are currently 163 former members of the U.S. Senate who are still living.
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1. Both CO and MN apparently have longstanding traditions of strongly competitive Senate contests – both between and within the major parties – and their holders often choosing not to be “lifers” (of the current four, only “Tina” Smith seems not to be in considerable risk of defeat, or to be willing to stay put in the chamber).
2. As of this writing, the Mount Rushmore State has 3 living former senators, EACH of whom have served 3 full terms (18 years, give or take a day) – though Larry Lee Pressler vied for a 4th “interrupted” term as recently as 2014.
3. The “Land of Lincoln”: ALL of its living ex-senators have served in the Class 3 seat – a testament to the longevity of its occupants, to be sure, but also to the fact that no one of either party has managed to serve 2 full terms since the late “Al the Pal” Dixon was re-elected in 1986, despite the embarrassing implosion of the (official) gubernatorial ticket briefly led by the now-88 year-old “Adlai the III”, Dixon’s immediate predecessor in the seat, no less.
4. I am not totally certain which state will be most likely to have one more ‘living former US senator’ after the conclusion of the 2020 elections – Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, or
5. SD: I should say three of the FOUR living ex-senators (#2); all have served in the House and also have directly gone on to the Senate (‘transfer students’ in a sense).