How Many US Representatives Will Win Senate Seats in 2020?
Fourteen have been elected to the senate during the last three cycles
As is customarily the case each cycle, several sitting and former U.S. Representatives are lining up for a run at the nation’s upper legislative chamber in 2020.
Republican Bradley Byrne of Alabama and Democrat Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico (pictured) have already announced their campaigns along with former GOP U.S. House members Scott Taylor (Virginia) and Cynthia Lummis (Wyoming) and ex-Democratic members Nancy Boyda (Kansas), Mike Espy (Mississippi), and Chris Bell (Texas).
More are expected to be added to that list, including current Wyoming at-large U.S. House member Liz Cheney.
While the majority of these bids fail, more than a dozen states have elected sitting U.S. Representatives to the senate over the last three cycles: Arizona (Kyrsten Sinema), Arkansas (Tom Cotton), Colorado (Cory Gardner), Illinois (Tammy Duckworth), Indiana (Todd Young), Louisiana (Bill Cassidy), Maryland (Chris Van Hollen), Michigan (Gary Peters), Montana (Steve Daines), Nevada (Jacky Rosen), North Dakota (Kevin Cramer), Oklahoma (James Lankford), Tennessee (Marsha Blackburn), and West Virginia (Shelly Moore Capito).
There are currently 48 U.S. Senators who formerly served in the house – a high number historically, but the lowest since the Election of 1998 when there were 44 in the 106th Congress.
That number peaked at 54 senators during the 114th Congress (2015-2017) and fell to 51 at the start of the 115th.
Rosen made history in 2018 when she unseated Dean Heller to become the first freshman woman in the U.S. House to be elected or appointed to a U.S. Senate seat.
There have been more than 600 U.S. Senators who previously served in the lower chamber, and, prior to Rosen, all 36 who were sitting freshmen at the time of their election or appointment were men.
A total of 20 of these 36 took their seats during the direct election era with three currently serving in the 116th Congress with Rosen: Republicans Tim Scott of South Carolina, Steve Daines of Montana, and Tom Cotton of Arkansas.
[Note: Washington Democrat Maria Cantwell had a six-year gap between her lone term in the house and her election to the senate in 2000].
Scott was appointed to his Senate seat one day before the end of his first term in January 2013 and had been reelected to a second term in the lower chamber two months prior.
Only five other freshmen have won a senate seat over the last 55 years:
- 1970: Maryland Republican J. Glenn Beall, Jr.
- 1970: Connecticut Republican Lowell Weicker
- 1972: South Dakota Democrat James Abourezk
- 1994: Minnesota Republican Rod Grams
- 1996: Kansas Republican Sam Brownback
The remaining sitting freshmen who won election to the U.S. Senate since the adoption of the 17th Amendment are:
● 1918: Illinois Republican Joseph McCormick
● 1920: Oklahoma Republican John Harreld
● 1931: Louisiana Democrat John Overton
● 1932: Illinois Democrat William Dieterich
● 1934: Connecticut Democrat Francis Maloney
● 1934: Nebraska Democrat Edward Burke
● 1936: Iowa Democrat Guy Gillette
● 1936: Oklahoma Democrat Joshua Lee
● 1944: Arkansas Democrat J. William Fulbright
● 1954: Nebraska Republican Roman Hruska
● 1960: North Dakota Democrat Quentin Burdick
● 1962: Colorado Republican Peter Dominick
The aforementioned 2020 bids by Taylor in Virginia (2017-2019) and Bell in Texas (2003-2005) seem to be historic as well as political long shots.
Aside from Cantwell, only one other former one-term U.S. House member has won a senate seat over the last 65 years: Virginia Republican George Allen. Allen served just 14 months in the House from November 1991 to January 1993 and did not seek a second term, choosing instead to run for governor. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2000.
Just five others have done so since 1914:
- 1916: Rhode Island Democrat Peter Gerry (two-year gap)
- 1920: George Democrat Thomas Watson (28 years)
- 1928: Missouri Republican Roscoe Patterson (six years)
- 1944: North Carolina Democrat Clyde Hoey (24 years)
- 1954: North Carolina Democrat Sam Ervin (six years, appointed)
Follow Smart Politics on Twitter.
1. Kirsten Gillibrand served just three weeks of a second term in the U.S. House before she was appointed to the Senate to replace Hillary Clinton in 2009.
2. What can be said of Senate candidates who ran for but never served in the House? Examples of current and recent such Senators include:
*Sen. Dean Barkley (I-Minn.), who ran in 1992 for the U.S. House from Minnesota’s 6th district on the Independence Party line, garnering 16.1% of the general election vote.
*Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.), who ran in 1968 for the U.S. House from Missouri’s 9th district; he won the Republican primary but lost to incumbent Rep. William Hungate in the general election.
*Sen. Paul Coverdell (R-Ga.), who ran in a 1977 special election for the U.S. House from Georgia’s 5th district to replace Andrew Young; he won the Republican primary but lost to Wyche Fowler in the general election.
*Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), who ran in 1972 for the U.S. House from Massachusetts’s 5th district; he won the Democratic primary but lost in an upset to Paul Cronin in the general election.
*Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.), who ran in 1980 for the U.S. House from Connecticut’s 3rd district; he won the Democratic primary but lost to Lawrence DeNardis in the general election.
*Sen. Frank Murkowski (R-Ak.), who ran in 1970 for the U.S. House from Alaska’s at-large district; he won the Republican primary but lost to Nick Begich in the general election.
*Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hi.), who ran in 2006 for the U.S. House from Hawaii’s 2nd district; he placed sixth out of ten candidates in the Democratic primary, which was won by his current Senate colleague, Mazie Hirono.
Meanwhile, the past election cycle alone saw four unsuccessful Senate nominees who fit the above description:
*Phil Bredesen, who was the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate in Tennessee in 2018, ran in a 1987 special election for the U.S. House from the 5th district; he placed second in the Democratic primary, which was won by Bob Clement, son of former governor Frank Clement.
*Patrick Morrisey, who was the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in West Virginia in 2018, ran in 2000 for the U.S. House from New Jersey’s 7th district; he placed last out of four candidates in the Republican primary, which was won by Mike Ferguson.
*Matt Rosendale, who was the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in Montana in 2018, ran in 2014 for the U.S. House from the at-large district; he placed third out of five candidates in the Republican primary, which was won by Ryan Zinke.
*Gary Trauner, who was the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate in Wyoming in 2018, ran in 2006 and 2008 for the U.S. House from the at-large district; he won the Democratic primary both times, but lost the 2006 general election to incumbent Rep. Barbara Cubin (by just half a point) and the 2008 general election to Cynthia Lummis.
The next election cycle already has at least five of this type of Senate candidate as well:
*M.J. Hegar, a candidate for U.S. Senate in Texas against incumbent Sen. John Cornyn, ran in 2018 for the U.S. House in the 31st district, winning the Democratic primary but losing to incumbent Rep. John Carter in the general election.
*Kris Kobach, a candidate for U.S. Senate in Kansas to succeed retiring Sen. Pat Roberts, ran in 2004 for the U.S. House from the 3rd district, winning the Republican primary but losing to incumbent Rep. Dennis Moore in the general election.
*Amy McGrath, a candidate for U.S. Senate in Kentucky against majority leader Mitch McConnell, ran in 2018 for the U.S. House from the 6th district, winning the Democratic primary but losing to incumbent Rep. Andy Barr in the general election.
*Andrew Romanoff, a candidate for U.S. Senate in Colorado against incumbent Sen. Cory Gardner, ran in 2014 for the U.S. House from the 6th district, winning the Democratic primary but losing to incumbent Rep. Mike Coffman in the general election.
*Gloria Bromell Tinubu, a candidate for U.S. Senate in South Carolina against incumbent Sen. Lindsey Graham, ran twice (2012, 2014) for the U.S. House from the 7th district, each time winning the Democratic primary but losing to Tom Rice.
1. I am surmising that at least 1 incumbent or ex representative has been elected to the Senate in every single election cycle – at least since the direct vote began.
Perhaps the most successful Senate cycle for then-current or former House members is the 1990 Senate elections. Of the 6 who were elected for the first time, including appointees, 5 (83.3%!) have had House service on their resume, including future Ambassador to Germany and now outgoing Director of National Intelligence “Dan” Coates. (I have not got a clue as to the most numerically successful cycle for House members)
2. Had former “Congressman” Lummis been selected by Governor “Dave” Freudenthal back in 2007, she more likely than not would be on her 13th year of service in the Senate today. Similarly, had ex Representative Martha McSally won the 2018 election, she would be free to simply focus on the business of legislating now, rather than be consumed with winning the remainder of her first term next year (she could actually try again in 2022 in the event of her loss, and even 2024 were she to try in ’22 and lose yet again).
Among the growing gaggle of aspirants with House service, WY R Lummis and NM D Lujan seem to have the best chances of winning in the forthcoming Senate elections (with honourable mention going to Bradley Byrne from deep-crimson AL).