Election Trivia for Political Wonks, Part 2
Maybe the lovers of congressional curiosities still haven’t mined the 2014 election results for all the political and institutional trivia pushed toward the surface.
An initial potpourri was offered Tuesday in this space — fun and sometimes consequential facts that go beyond the historic statistics that put context behind Republicans’ midterm sweep. That, of course, is the GOP’s current net gain of 11 House seats assures them their largest majority since the Truman administration, and their potential pickup of nine Senate seats would be the biggest boost for either party since 1980.
A special election held on Nov. 4 means Congress now has its 100th voting female member for the first time, in North Carolina Democrat Alma Adams, and the midterms assured more diversity in the coming year. Debbie Dingell of Michigan has become the first person elected to the House as successor to a living spouse, for example, and the arrival of Baptist pastors Jody Hice of Georgia and Mark Walker of North Carolina (both Republicans) will expand to six the roster of Protestant ministers in the House.
(You can learn more about the members-elect in our Guide to the New Congress.)
Here is another collection of trivia questions and answers designed to provide insight into the meaning, consequences and oddities of the 2014 cycle. See Part I here.
Which was the state with the biggest House delegation in which every member sought and won another term?
Not one of them confronted a serious challenge. All four Democrats were re-elected with at least 64 percent of the vote, and only three of the 12 Republicans ended up with slightly smaller majorities than that: David Joyce and Steve Chabot took 63 percent and Bill Johnson 58 percent. (Speaker John A. Boehner, who aired TV commercials for the first time in four years, won his district in the state’s southwest corner by 40 points.) Indiana’s was the next biggest delegation (7 Republicans and 2 Democrats) that will be unchanged between now and next year.
Answer: Lucille Roybal-Allard.
Question: Who was elected to the House with the fewest votes?
She got just fewer than 27,000 votes in complete but unofficial returns — good enough for the Democrat to secure her 12th term with 62 percent in California’s 40th District, which includes parts of East Los Angeles and the suburbs, and industrial areas to the southeast. Turnout was low, at 15 percent, but there were similar participation rates in many other not-very-competitive House races.
What makes her district ripe for electing a member with so few votes is that 57 percent of her constituents aren’t eligible to vote because they are too young and/or are not citizens — the highest percentage in the nation according to data crunched by the Pew Research Center. (At 87 percent, Roybal-Allard’s district also is the most Latino in the country.)
Answer: George Leing.
Question: Which House candidate received the most votes in the general election without winning?
His name was marked on almost 148,000 ballots in Colorado — more than the total number of votes cast in dozens of House contests nationwide. Still, that total was good enough for the attorney and local Republican official to take a respectable, but not really all that close, 44 percent against Democratic Rep. Jared Polis, who won a fourth term in the 2nd District, which takes in Boulder and Fort Collins along with some Denver suburbs and many of the state’s most famous ski resorts. (The area is having a population boom, but the hotly contested Senate and gubernatorial races at the top of the ticket surely boosted turnout.)
The top Democrat in this backhanded compliment category, and second place nationwide, was John Lewis of Montana. A longtime senior aide to former Sen. Max Baucus, Lewis drew 146,000 votes but just 40 percent in his bid to win the state’s at-large seat. That seat, by the way, was the only district with more than 700,000 registered voters in 2014. The victor was former GOP state Sen. Ryan Zinke.
Question: How many senators universally viewed as sure bets for re-election ended up with narrower margins of victory than in the most lopsided of the hotly contested Senate contests?
In Arkansas, GOP Rep. Tom Cotton ousted Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor by a whopping 18 points, while Republican leader Mitch McConnell cruised to his sixth term in Kentucky by 16 points. These purportedly “safe-seat” senators (all of them Democrats) who ended up with narrower point spreads than either Pryor or McConnell: Chris Coons won by 14 points in Delaware, Cory Booker by 13 points in New Jersey, Tom Udall by 11 points in New Mexico and Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin by just 10 points in Illinois.
The roster does not include the survivor of the closest political near-death experience — Mark Warner, who survived by a single point in Virginia —because most quantitative and qualitative assessments of his race showed he was a very likely, but a never safe bet to win. Warner, in fact, briefly appeared on our September list of the Most Vulnerable Senators.
Question: What’s no longer going to be the second-most-popular given name in the Senate?
Three of the five incumbents with that name — Alaska’s Begich, Arkansas’ Pryor and Colorado’s Udall — were swept out of office this month, and the fourth Democratic Mark, Virginia’s Warner, barely survived. Add that to the list of bad omens confronting the one Republican named after the author of the New Testament’s second Gospel: Kirk of Illinois, who’s already near the top of the Democratic target list for 2016 because of his frail health and the fact his state has been blue on each of the past six presidential election maps. (“No frickin’ way I’m retiring,” Kirk declared to CQ Roll Call last week.)
Even though Jay Rockefeller (John D. IV to the genealogists) of West Virginia is leaving, John will remain the Senate’s most popular name next year, with seven: Boozman of Arkansas, Cornyn of Texas, Hoeven of North Dakota, Thune of South Dakota and Barrasso of Wyoming are the Republicans; Jon Tester of Montana and Jack Reed of Rhode Island are the Democrats. Robert will be the new No. 2, with four: Republicans Portman of Ohio and Corker of Tennessee, Democrats Casey of Pennsylvania and Menendez of New Jersey.
Question: How many letters will have entries on the alphabetized list of members of the 114th Congress?
That’s up from the 24 that’s been a constant for a decade. Next year’s House roster will include not only Montana’s Zinke, but also fellow Republican Lee Zeldin of Long Island, incidentally the only Jewish Republican in Congress. It’s been 18 years since there were “Zs” on the list — and they were a House GOP pair then, too: Dick Zimmer of New Jersey and Bill Zeliff of New Hampshire. Those men gave up their seats in 1996 for unsuccessful bids for higher office.
Democrat Xavier Becerra of California will be joined by Republican Alex X. Mooney of Maryland as House members with a capital “X” on their stationary, but there has never been a member of Congress with an “X” surname.