Identifying and analyzing emerging trends in campaigns and elections.

House Reruns Passed Over

In House on December 16, 2014 at 7:53 pm

With the AZ-2 race at last drawing to a close in the Tucson area (Martha McSally-R vs. Rep. Ron Barber-D), the political lineup for the 114th Congress is virtually finalized. Though McSally’s 161-vote lead in the original tally is obviously close, it is likely to hold since Arizona election law has no provision to challenge votes. Therefore, we can now delve more deeply into the 2014 electoral patterns.

One area worthy of examining is how former members attempting to return to the House fared. Often times, incumbents run for a different office, are defeated, or retire, and at a later date decide to launch a political comeback. In the 2014 cycle, a dozen former members ran campaigns to obtain their former positions. Looking at how this group fared could be an indicator as to what we might expect in 2016. In virtually every election cycle, there are individuals in this category.

Of the 12 ex-House members attempting to return, only two, Bob Dold (R-IL-10) and Frank Guinta (R-NH-1) were successful. The other 10, all running as Republicans with the exception of former representatives Joe Baca (D-CA-31) and Hansen Clarke (D-MI-14), were defeated. One of the unsuccessful former members, ex-Rep. Gene Taylor (MS-4), ran as a Republican in 2014, but served in the House for 11 terms as a Democrat. Baca, Clarke and Taylor all fell in their respective primaries, as did GOP former representatives Clyde Holloway (LA-5) and Todd Tiahrt (KS-4). The others: ex-representatives Doug Ose (CA-7), Charles Djou (HI-1), Bobby Schilling (IL-17) and Nan Hayworth (NY-18), all lost in the general election.

In 2014, a grand total of 18 incumbents lost their seats, 13 in the general election and five in the nomination phase. Already, outgoing representatives Brad Schneider (D-IL-10), Steven Horsford (D-NV-4), and Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH-1), say they have not ruled out running again in 2016. Most of the others, particularly the ones who lost in primaries, are unlikely to run again, with the possible exception of defeated Rep. Pete Gallego (D-TX-23). Should Arizona Rep. Barber be officially unseated in the recount process, it is unclear what his future political may be, if any.

Two defeated House members, the aforementioned Shea-Porter and New York Rep. Dan Maffei (D-NY-24), have actually lost their seats twice as incumbents.

Rep. Shea-Porter was originally elected in 2006, defeating incumbent Republican Jeb Bradley (R) in the eastern New Hampshire congressional district. She was re-elected, again against Bradley who was making a rerun, in 2008 with 52 percent of the vote. In 2010, she was ousted 42-54 percent by then-Manchester Mayor Frank Guinta (R). Two years later, she came back in a rerun, defeating Guinta 50-46 percent. In the third match between the two, Guinta returned the serve 52-48 percent in last month’s vote. Recent comments suggest that Shea-Porter is at least considering coming back for a fourth campaign between the two. In her five races for the House (winning three; losing two), she has averaged approximately 48.6 percent of the vote versus her Republican opponents’ share of 49.4 percent.

Maffei was first elected in 2008, after coming within two points of defeating then-Rep. Jim Walsh (R-NY-25) in 2006. With Walsh not seeking re-election in ’08, Maffei won a 49-37 percent victory to claim the open seat. Businesswoman Ann Marie Buerkle (R) then defeated him by less than a percentage point in 2010, but Maffei returned to recapture the newly numbered 24th District in 2012 by a five-point 47-42 percent margin. In November, Maffei again fell, and this time hard. Former District Attorney John Katko (R) ousted him with a 20 point, 59-39 percent margin. In Maffei’s five runs for the House, he averaged approximately 46.4 percent, never breaking 50 percent even in the two races he won. His combined Republican opponents averaged a slightly better 47.6 percent.

There is no word as to whether the outgoing congressman will attempt yet another comeback in 2016, but the size of his latest loss, and the fact that he has never achieved majority support, would suggest his congressional days are over.

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