Déjà Vu: Wisconsin’s 2014 US House Elections

Wisconsin has elected the same U.S. House delegation in back-to-back cycles just 12 times since statehood in 1848 but is likely to do so next November

jimsensenbrenner10.jpegWith no announced retirements, no officeholders running for higher office, and no competitive seats on the radar next November, the eight members of the Wisconsin U.S. House delegation will likely look exactly the same coming out of the 2014 election as it was out of 2012: Democrats Marc Pocan (2nd CD), Ron Kind (3rd), and Gwen Moore (4th) and Republicans Paul Ryan (1st), Jim Sensenbrenner (5th), Tom Petri (6th), Sean Duffy (7th) and Reid Ribble (8th).

While that may not sound surprising, it is actually much more of a historical rarity in the Badger State than it appears at first blush.

Smart Politics examined Wisconsin U.S. House election results across the 83 cycles since its first contests in May 1848, and found that the state has elected the same delegation in back-to-back cycles only 12 times, or approximately one every seven cycles.

The last time this happened was in 2008, when the eight winners from 2006 all coasted to victory: Democrats Tammy Baldwin, Steve Kagen, Ron Kind, Gwen Moore, and David Obey and Republicans Tom Petri, Paul Ryan, and Jim Sensenbrenner.

Despite the overall historical rarity of seeing zero turnover in the Badger State’s U.S. House delegation from the previous cycle, it has been more common in recent decades.

Across the state’s first 26 election cycles and 50 years from 1848 to 1898, identical delegations were elected in back-to-back cycles only once:

· 1866-1868: Democrat Charles Eldredge and Republicans Amasa Cobb, Benjamin Hopkins, Halbert Paine, Philetus Sawyer, and Cadwallader Washburn.

(Note: In 1872, Wisconsin was apportioned two additional seats. All six incumbents from the 1870 cycle were reelected (Democrats Charles Eldredge and Alexander Mitchell and Republicans J. Allen Barber, Gerry Hazelton, Jeremiah Rusk, and Philetus Sawyer) plus two new members (Republicans Alexander McDill and Charles Williams)).

During the next 31 cycles and 60 years from 1900 to 1960, identical delegations were elected in back-to-back cycles four times:

· 1902-1904: Democrat Charles Weisse and Republicans Henry Adams, Joseph Babcock, Webster Brown, Henry Cooper, James Davidson, John Esch, John Jenkins, Edward Minor, Theobald Otjen, and William Stafford.

· 1912-1914: Democrats Michael Burke, Thomas Konop, and Michael Reilly and Republicans Edward Browne, William Cary, Henry Cooper, John Esch, James Frear, Irvine Lenroot, John Nelson, and William Stafford.

· 1922-1924: Socialist Victor Berger and Republicans Joseph Beck, Edward Browne, Henry Cooper, James Frear, Florian Lampert, John Nelson, Hubert Peavey, John Schafer, George Schneider, and Edward Voigt.

· 1934-1936: Democrats Raymond Cannon, Thomas O’Malley, and Michael Reilly and Progressives Thomas Amlie, Gerald Boileau, Bernard Gehrmann, Merlin Hull, Harry Sauthoff, George Schneider, and Gardner Withrow.

During the last 26 cycles and 50 years since 1962, it has happened seven times:

· 1960-1962: Democrats Robert Kastenmeier, Lester Johnson, Henry Reuss, and Clement Zablocki and Republicans John Byrnes, Melvin Laird, Alvin O’Konski, Henry Schadeberg, Vernon Thomson, and William Van Pelt.

· 1966-1968: Democrats Robert Kastenmeier, Henry Reuss, and Clement Zablocki and Republicans John Byrnes, Glenn Davis, Melvin Laird, Alvin O’Konski, Henry Schadeberg, William Steiger, and Vernon Thomson.

· 1974-1976: Democrats Les Aspin, Alvin Baldus, Robert Cornell, Robert Kastenmeier, David Obey, Henry Reuss, and Clement Zablocki and Republicans Robert Kasten, Jr. and William Steiger.

· 1984-1986: Democrats Les Aspin, Robert Kastenmeier, Gerald Kleczka, Jim Moody, and David Obey and Republicans Steve Gunderson, Tom Petri, Toby Roth, and Jim Sensenbrenner.

· 1986-1988: Democrats Les Aspin, Robert Kastenmeier, Gerald Kleczka, Jim Moody, and David Obey and Republicans Steve Gunderson, Tom Petri, Toby Roth, and Jim Sensenbrenner.

· 1998-2000: Democrats Tammy Baldwin, Tom Barrett, Ron Kind, Gerald Kleczka, and David Obey and Republicans Mark Green, Tom Petri, Paul Ryan, and Jim Sensenbrenner

· 2006-2008: Democrats Tammy Baldwin, Steve Kagen, Ron Kind, Gwen Moore, and David Obey and Republicans Tom Petri, Paul Ryan, and Jim Sensenbrenner.

(The state would also likely have election the same delegation in 1984 as it did in 1982 were it not for the death of 17-term Democrat Clement Zablocki in 1983. In 2002, the state lost one incumbent, Tom Barrett, after losing one seat to reapportionment).

If the same eight U.S. Representatives are elected by Wisconsinites again in 2014, that scenario is not likely to repeat itself three or four times in a row.

Even with the state’s relatively uncompetitive congressional districts, the delegation may lose a member to higher office (e.g. possible presidential candidate Paul Ryan in 2016) or to retirement with 19-term, 70-year old Jim Sensenbrenner and 18-term, 73-year old Tom Petri the most likely to do so.

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