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Freshman Class Filled With Losers

Jenkins and Love are among the incoming freshmen who have previously lost races. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Congress is filled with a bunch of losers, but not exactly in the way you’re thinking.  

In the wake of the elections, it’s easy to second-guess losing candidates and their campaigns, and to discount their chances of ever winning a seat in Congress. But at least 27 incoming House members have electoral losses on their records — more than 40 percent of the new class — and many of them lost contests for the same seat they will represent in the 114th Congress.  

When handicapping future success, the circumstances surrounding each loss and the fresh dynamics of the new race are often more important than the loss itself. In some cases, incumbents retire or the political environment changes to boost a previous loser to victory. Or a candidate moves on to bolster their résumé and returns to the campaign trail with more success.  

Here are 27 losers coming into the next Congress:

  • Democrat Pete Aguilar was elected to California’s 31st District. He failed to finish in the top two in the 2012 primary in the same district, but came back to win the open seat this cycle.
  • Democrat Brad Ashford was elected to Nebraska's 2nd District. He lost in the Republican primary in 1994 in the same district.
  • Republican Rick Allen was elected to Georgia’s 12th District. He lost in the Republican primary in the same district in 2012.
  • Republican Brian Babin was elected to Texas’ 36th District. He lost previous races for Congress in 1996 and 1998.
  • Democrat Don Beyer was elected to Virginia’s 8th District. He lost a 1997 gubernatorial race against Republican Jim Gilmore.
  • Republican Mike Bishop was elected to Michigan's 8th District. He ran unsuccessfully for attorney general in 2010 and Oakland County prosecutor in 2012.
  • Republican Rod Blum was elected to Iowa's 1st District. He lost in the GOP primary in the same district in 2012.
  • Republican Mike Bost was elected to Illinois' 12th District. He lost a bid for the Illinois state House in 1992.
  • Democrat Brendan F. Boyle was elected to Pennsylvania's 13th District. He lost bids for the state House in 2004 and 2006.
  • Republican Ken Buck was elected to Colorado’s 4th District. He lost a high-profile Senate race in 2010 against Democrat Michael Bennet.
  • Democrat Mark DeSaulnier was elected to California's 11th District. He lost a 2009 special for Congress to Democrat John Garamendi.
  • Republican Robert Dold was elected to Illinois’ 10th District. He was elected to the seat in 2010 but lost re-election to Democrat Brad Schneider in 2012.
  • Republican Tom Emmer was elected to Minnesota's 6th District. He ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2010.
  • Republican Frank Guinta was elected to New Hampshire’s 1st District. He was elected to to the district in 2010 but lost re-election to Democrat Carol Shea-Porter in 2012.
  • Republican Jody Hice was elected to Georgia's 10th District. He lost the GOP primary runoff to Rob Woodall in the 7th District in 2010.
  • Republican Will Hurd was elected to Texas’ 23rd District. He lost the primary runoff in the same district in 2010.
  • Republican Evan Jenkins was elected to West Virginia's 3rd District. He lost his bid for the state Supreme Court of Appeals in 2000.
  • Democrat Brenda Lawrence was elected to Michigan’s 14th District. She finished third in the Democratic primary in the same district in 2012. Lawrence also lost a bid for Oakland County Executive in 2008 and as Democratic gubernatorial nominee Virg Bernero’s running mate in 2010.
  • Republican Mia Love was elected to Utah’s 4th District. She lost a very close race in the same district last cycle to Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson, who is retiring.
  • Republican Martha E. McSally was elected to Arizona’s 2nd District, assuming her lead holds after a recount. She lost a very close race in the same district in 2012 to Democratic Rep. Ron Barber.
  • Republican John Moolenaar was elected to Michigan's 4th District. He lost a bid for the state Senate in 1990.
  • Republican Alex X. Mooney was elected to West Virginia's 2nd District. He lost a bid for the state House in New Hampshire in 1992 and was defeated for re-election to the Maryland state Senate in 2010.
  • Republican Bruce Poliquin was elected to Maine’s 2nd District. Poliquin finished a distant sixth out of seven candidates in the Republican primary for governor in 2010 and second in the Senate primary in 2012.
  • Democrat Kathleen Rice was elected to New York's 4th District. She lost in the Democratic primary for state attorney general in 2010.
  • Republican David Rouzer was elected to North Carolina’s 7th District. He lost a close race for the seat in 2012 against Democratic Rep. Mike McIntyre.
  • Republican Mimi Walters was elected to California's 45th District. She was the GOP nominee for state treasurer in 2010.
  • Republican Lee Zeldin was elected to New York’s 1st District. Zeldin lost his challenge to Democratic Rep. Timothy H. Bishop in the same district in 2008. He was subsequently elected and re-elected to the state Senate, and he defeated Bishop earlier this month.

It’s not surprising that losing a previous race doesn’t disqualify a candidate from being elected governor either.

  • Republican Charlie Baker was elected governor of Massachusetts. He lost his 2010 gubernatorial bid to Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick.
  • Republican Larry Hogan was elected governor of Maryland. He lost bids for Congress in 1981 and in 1992 in the 5th District.
  • Republican Asa Hutchinson was elected governor of Arkansas. He lost a 2006 bid for governor to Democrat Mike Beebe.
  • Republican Pete Ricketts was elected governor of Nebraska this year. He lost a 2006 Senate race to Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson.

So, for any losing candidates thinking about running again , it is possible.  

Correction, 10:30 a.m. A previous version of this story misstated Timothy H. Bishop's first name.  

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