Second Acts In The Senate

Dan Coats is an Indiana Republican who is hoping to win the Senate seat he voluntarily vacated 12 years ago. (NPR's David Welna reported on the race to succeed Evan Bayh today on "Morning Edition," which you can hear here.

A question on Coats' effort from Steve Carr of St. John's, Newfoundland, in Canada:

The Republican primary in Indiana includes a former senator trying to recapture his old seat. Grover Cleveland is of course the only one to pull this off at the presidential level, but how many senators have had split tenures in office?

There's only one in the current Senate: Frank Lautenberg. The New Jersey Democrat retired in 2000 after three terms but came back in 2002 when Sen. Robert Torricelli (D) bowed out of his re-election race at the last minute because of ethics problems.

Here's a less-clear cut example: In 1986, Kent Conrad, a Democrat running in North Dakota, pledged that if the budget deficit did not significantly go down during his term, he wouldn't run again. In 1992, he kept his promise. But later in the year, the state's senior senator, Quentin Burdick (D), died, and Conrad ran in the special election to replace him. I'm not sure if Conrad qualifies for this because there was no gap in his Senate service.

I can think of a bunch of others in the past who did what Coats is attempting to do, but this is hardly a complete list. Barry Goldwater (R-AZ) left the Senate in 1964 to run for president — he could have sought both jobs — and was trounced by President Lyndon Johnson. Four years later, when Carl Hayden (D) retired, Goldwater was successful in his Senate comeback.

In Minnesota, Hubert Humphrey's first Senate tenure ended in 1964 after he was elected vice president along with President Johnson. Defeated in his own bid for the presidency in 1968, Humphrey came back and won a Senate seat in 1970 when Democratic incumbent Eugene McCarthy retired.

In Kentucky, Alben Barkley (D) served more than 20 years until he was tapped to be President Harry Truman's running mate in 1948. Six years later, two years after his term as VP was over, Barkley returned to the Senate, defeating interim GOP incumbent John Sherman Cooper. Barkley died in office in 1956 ... and Cooper won the special election to replace him.

Cooper also had an even more complicated career in the Senate. In 1945, Sen. Happy Chandler (D) resigned to become baseball commissioner. Cooper won the special election to replace Chandler in 1946, only to be defeated two years later by Democrat Virgil Chapman. Chapman then died in 1951, and Thomas Underwood (D) was appointed to replace him ... only to be defeated by Cooper in '52 ... who lost to Barkley in '54 ... but came back in '56.

I'm getting exhausted just typing this.

In Massachusetts, Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. resigned his Senate seat in 1944 to fight in World War II. In 1946, he returned to the Senate by defeating Democratic incumbent David Walsh.

Ohio's Howard Metzenbaum (D) was appointed to fill a vacant seat in 1974 but served only a short time as he was defeated in the Democratic primary that same year by John Glenn — reversing the results of the 1970 primary. In 1976, Metzenbaum then challenged GOP Sen. Robert Taft Jr., who had defeated Metzenbaum in '70, and beat him in the rematch.

Slade Gorton, a Republican from Washington, won a Senate seat in 1980 and lost it six years later. Then, in 1988, he won the other Senate seat, was re-elected in '94, and lost it in 2000.

Chapman Revercomb, a Republican from West Virginia, won a Senate seat in 1942 and lost it six years later. Then, in 1956, he won a special election for the other Senate seat, running on Ike's coattails, but lost it in the regular election two years later.

Dizzy? I know I am.

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