Sunday, November 16, 2008

North Carolina Senators Don't Get Re-Elected

North Carolina: The Senate's Revolving Door

Iowa went through a stretch in the 1970's as the revolving door of the U.S. Senate. With a combination of defeats (Miller, Clark, Culver, Jepsen) and retirements (Hickenlooper, Hughes), no Iowa senator was re-elected from 1966 to 1986.

Nowadays, Iowa is a giant of Senate seniority with two five-term senators, outranked in total now goes to North Carolina. Since 1968, no one except Jesse Helms has been re-elected to the U.S. Senate from the Tarheel State.

Granted, Helms held that seat for 30 years. Elizabeth Dole took his place in 2002, only to lose her re-election bid to Kay Hagan this year. But it's the other Senate seat that has really seen turnover.

The last senator re-elected to the Class 3 seat was Watergate era hero Sam Ervin in 1968. Since his retirement in 1974, the seat has seen no fewer than seven senators, in a sequence that reads like a list of Spinal Tap drummers.

  • Democrat Robert Morgan took over the seat in 1974, but lost in 1980 to...
  • Republican John East, who announced his retirement in 1986 and then, in ill health, committed suicide. He was briefly replaced by...
  • James Broyhill, a House member who had already won the 1986 Republican Senate primary. But Broyhill lost the general to...
  • Democrat Terry Sanford, a former governor making a comeback after a decade or so out of office. But in 1992, Sanford lost his re-election bid to...
  • Republican Lauch Faircloth, who proceeded to lose in 1998 to...
  • none other than John Edwards, who just recently re-emerged from the shadows. Edwards must have known the seat was jinxed, because he quickly adopting the old Fred Harris strategy of "run for president, because I've got a better chance at that than I do of getting re-elected." Even though state law allowed Edwards to run for both vice president and re-election in 2004, Edwards went with the up-or-out approach.
  • With the seat open in 2004, Republican congressman Richard Burr took over from Edwards. Given the history of the seat, and the blue trend in North Carolina, Burr has to be a little nervous.

    Believe it or not, this isn't even the highest turnover era in North Carolina history. Through a combination of deaths, appointments, and primary defeats, six men held the Class 2 seat in 12 years between 1946 and 1958. That included the infamous 1950 primary, when Willis Smith beat appointee Frank Graham. Jesse Helms, who later held this seat, made his bones working on the race-baiting Smith campaign, which featured a faked photo of Graham's wife with--a black man.

    My, but things have changed.
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