Thursday, March 03, 2011

Iowa To Lead Senate Seniority

Iowa To Lead Senate Seniority

Yesterday's retirement announcement by Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) marks a major milestone for Iowa. Assuming they stay in office, the Iowa team of Chuck Grassley and Tom Harkin will give our state the most senior Senate delegation in the country.

Smart Politics just crunched the numbers and shows Iowa at number two behind the state the President grew up in (sorry, Huckabee). The just-re-elected Grassley has 30 years and change while Harkin, with four years to go on his term, sits at 26. (Harkin happens to be the most senior junior senator.)

That's a total of 56, and 60 by the 2012 election when Hawaii will drop to Daniel Inouye's 50 (!) years. Even with a brand new freshman, that STILL leaves them at number two.

Hawaii can't do what number three state Indiana did, when they replaced two term Evan Bayh with 10 year former Senator Dan Coats. Hawaii has no living former senators. Coats' prior service only puts him at the top of the class of 2010 for committee assignments and such. In any case Indiana is likely to drop soon as six-termer Dick Lugar is at the top of the tea party primary list.

Iowa's rise has been accelerated by the devastation of the top ranks of Senate seniority since 2008. Ted Stevens and Arlen Specter got beat, Pete Domenici and Chris Dodd left semi-voluntarily, Joe Biden got promoted to vice president, and mortality took Bob Byrd and Ted Kennedy.

It's a far cry from the dark ages of the 60s and 70s. We went 20 years, 1966 to 1986, without re-electing ANY Senator. Harold Hughes retired after one term; Jack Miller, Dick Clark, John Culver and Roger Jepsen all got beat.

Iowa is also the only state in the current top ten with a split-party team. Indiana did till recently but Lugar had far more seniority that Bayh. Research project: has ANY other state EVER had a Senate pair of opposing parties with both senators in fifth terms or more? UPDATE from the comments: Yes. Strom Thurmond and Fritz Hollings.

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