Rounding Out the New Members

With the 2014 election cycle nearly complete, we can now begin to study the House and Senate freshman class composition.

If Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA-6) defeats Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) in the Louisiana run-off – he’s the favorite to win, despite her incumbency, with internal polls showing him ahead by as many as 16 percentage points – the Senate freshman class will feature 13 members, 12 of whom are Republican.

Of the baker’s dozen, again including Cassidy, five won their seats by defeating incumbents. Former Attorney General Dan Sullivan (Alaska), representatives Tom Cotton (Arkansas), Cory Gardner (Colorado), Cassidy (Louisiana), and state House Speaker Thom Tillis (North Carolina) are, or will be, the Republican challenger victors.

In the recent past, the House of Representatives had not proven to be a particularly favorable political position from which to launch a statewide run. This current cycle reversed that trend. In fact, a majority of the new members, seven, come to the Senate via the House: representatives Cotton, Gardner, Cassidy, Gary Peters (D-MI-14), Steve Daines (R-MT-AL), James Lankford (R-OK-5), and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV-2). One, South Dakota’s Mike Rounds (R), is a former governor; two are state legislators – Tillis; State Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) – and three had not previously won an elective office: Sullivan, businessman David Perdue (R-GA), and college president Ben Sasse (R-NE).

The House features 61 freshmen, if the outstanding races and the two Louisiana run-offs end as currently predicted. Forty-four of the incoming House members are Republicans, as compared to 17 Democrats.

Here, we again see a return to a more normal political pattern of previous elective service after witnessing the 2010 and ’12 election cycles that produced a very high number of freshmen members who were elected to their first office. In this new class, 28 of the incoming congressmen come from the state legislature. Five are or were mayors, and four are district attorneys, while two hold local office. Another pair, New Hampshire’s Frank Guinta (R) and Illinois’ Bob Dold (R), lost their US House seats in 2012 only to regain them on Nov. 4. One is a former lieutenant governor, and another an ex-state agriculture secretary. Eighteen of the new members have never held political office prior to their electoral victories earlier this month.

In previous articles, we mentioned repeatedly that the 114th Congress will be the least senior in the modern political era. The election results now allow us to put a number on incoming and holdover senators who have served two full terms or less, in addition to House members being present in the body for no more than three full terms. Almost three-quarters of the 114th’s senators (73) will have served 12 years or less when the chamber opens for regular session in January. In the House, 238 members, or 54.7 percent of the entire body, will have served three full terms or less when the first roll call is answered upon entering the new year.

One More Call

We now have an official result in the Alaska governor’s race as more absentee ballots continue to be counted: Independent candidate Bill Walker, a former Republican who joined with Democratic gubernatorial nominee Byron Mallott on a unified coalition ticket, has unseated Republican Gov. Sean Parnell. Walker will succeed Parnell in the Governor’s office, while Mallott becomes lieutenant governor.

2016 Announcements

Already, we have action for the 2016 election cycle. Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk (R), the subject of retirement speculation after suffering a serious stroke early in his first term, confirmed that he will seek re-election in two years. Democrats look to be recruiting sophomore Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL-8), who says through a spokesperson that she is not ruling out a statewide bid.

Nevada Rep. Joe Heck (R-NV-3), whose name is mentioned as a possible challenger to Sen. Harry Reid (D), took himself out of Senate speculation citing his work in the House and new promotion to the rank of Brigadier General in the US Army Reserve.

Speculation from the top Manchester Union Leader newspaper political reporter suggests that Rep. Annie Kuster (D-NH-2) may be considering a 2016 challenge to US Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R). John DiStaso also states that defeated Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH-1) may attempt yet another comeback in 2016. She was first elected in 2006 before falling to then-Manchester Mayor Frank Guinta (R) in 2010. Shea-Porter regained the seat in 2012, but again lost to Guinta earlier this month. If she were to run in 2016, it would mark the fourth consecutive election cycle featuring the two opposing each other. So far, Guinta has won twice.

In the San Bernardino County (CA) open 31st District, defeated Republican candidate Paul Chabot, the former Navy officer who lost a close 49-51 percent campaign to incoming Rep. Pete Aguilar (D), says he will seek a re-match in 2016. Considering Chabot received very little national Republican Party support and still came close to winning the seat, he should attract greater attention in two years, though the presidential year turnout model will make his task all the more difficult.

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