Who Has Won the Most Votes in US Senate Electoral History?

Only three of the Top 10 and nine of the Top 50 vote-getters of all time are currently serving in the chamber

barbaraboxer10.jpgBarbara Boxer’s announcement last week that she would not seek reelection to a fifth term to the U.S. Senate in 2016 means the California Democrat will retire falling just shy of a little-known historical record.

Boxer is currently in second place on the all-time list for the most votes received by any U.S. Senate candidate in history – behind her fellow delegation member of population-rich California, Dianne Feinstein.

Feinstein sits atop the list with 28,706,238 votes cast for her across her five general election victories – approximately 6.9 million more votes than Boxer.

With 2016 being a presidential election cycle, and California’s growing population, Boxer would likely have easily eclipsed that deficit had she decided to run for reelection. (Boxer claimed 6.95 million votes the last time she was on the ballot in a presidential election year – 2004).

Boxer is also second to Feinstein for the most votes received in any single election to the nation’s upper legislative chamber with those 6,955,728 votes in 2004.

Feinstein broke that mark in 2012 when she garnered 7,864,624 votes in a landslide victory.

California also has the #3 ranked U.S. Senator on the all-time vote-getter list – former four-term Democrat Alan Cranston at 15.7 million.

Of course, membership on this list is determined by a variety of factors such as 1) political longevity, 2) winning elections by large margins, 3) representing states with high voter turnout, and, most importantly, 4) representing states with large voting age populations.

As such, the appearance of long-serving (and recently serving) California U.S. Senators at the top of this list should not be surprising given the Golden State’s relatively large population compared to other states at this point in history.

Another key variable, related to longevity, is of course winning elections: none of the Top 17 vote-getters in history ever lost a general election U.S. Senate contest.

(However, 18 of the U.S. Senators who netted at least five million votes did lose at least one race and two such Senators lost at least two contests: New York Conservative/Republican James Buckley (#34, 6.8 million, lost three) and Ohio Republican Robert Taft, Jr. (#59, 5.2 million)).

Following the trio of Californians is Massachusetts Democrat Ted Kennedy at #4 with 13.4 million votes across his nine campaigns – just ahead of the 13.3 million votes won by New York Democrat Daniel Patrick Moynihan in his four contests.

Rounding out the Top 10 are New York Republican Jacob Javits at #6 (12.6 million), recently retired Democrat Carl Levin of Michigan at #7 (12.0 million), Pennsylvania Republican turned Democrat Arlen Specter at #8 (11.2 million), Texas Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison at #9 (10.5 million), and current three-term Florida Democrat Bill Nelson at #10 (10.4 million).

Only three other U.S. Senate candidates have amassed more than 10 million general election votes during their political careers: New York Democrat Chuck Schumer (10.3 million), New York Republican Alfonse D’Amato (10.3 million), and Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin (10.0 million).

With Boxer frozen at #2, there are still a few long-serving U.S. Senators who are poised to move up the list in 2016 – should they choose to run again – with the aforementioned Schumer leading the way:

● Schumer is currently #11 with 10,368,000 votes. The three-term Empire State Senator would likely jump to fourth place on the list.

● Maryland Democrat Barbara Mikulski is currently #44 with 6,053,771 votes. The longest serving woman in the history of Congress would land inside the Top 30 assuming she receives the support she traditionally has in past cycles.

● Washington Democrat Patty Murray is currently #60 with 5,165,795 votes. The four-term Senator could reach the Top 35 with a victory in the upcoming cycle.

A total of 11 of the 100 U.S. Senators in the 114th Congress have tallied at least five million votes for their seat.

In addition to those mentioned above are Texas Republican John Cornyn at #14 (9.6 million), New York Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand at #25 (7.6 million), Michigan Democrat Debbie Stabenow at #33 (6.9 million), and Ohio Democrat Sherrod Brown at #62 (5.0 million).

Most Votes Won in U.S. Senate Electoral History

Rank
State
Senator
Party
Votes
1
California
Dianne Feinstein*
Democrat
28,706,238
2
California
Barbara Boxer*
Democrat
21,759,341
3
California
Alan Cranston
Democrat
15,725,583
4
Massachusetts
Ted Kennedy
Democrat
13,403,673
5
New York
Daniel Patrick Moynihan
Democrat
13,349,930
6
New York
Jacob Javits
Republican
12,606,310
7
Michigan
Carl Levin
Democrat
12,002,515
8
Pennsylvania
Arlen Specter
Republican
11,234,326
9
Texas
Kay Bailey Hutchison
Republican
10,536,814
10
Florida
Bill Nelson*
Democrat
10,403,486
11
New York
Chuck Schumer*
Democrat
10,368,000
12
New York
Alfonse D’Amato
Republican
10,303,831
13
Illinois
Dick Durbin*
Democrat
10,030,641
14
Texas
John Cornyn*
Republican
9,695,243
15
New York
Robert Wagner
Democrat
9,645,973
16
California
Pete Wilson
Republican
9,165,974
17
Ohio
John Glenn
Democrat
9,095,083
18
Illinois
Charles Percy
Republican
8,974,277
19
Illinois
Everett Dirksen
Republican
8,579,485
20
Texas
Phil Gramm
Republican
8,441,385
21
Texas
Lloyd Bensten
Democrat
8,362,054
22
California
Thomas Kuchel
Republican
8,164,237
23
Illinois
Paul Douglas
Democrat
8,161,182
24
Ohio
Howard Metzenbaum
Democrat
7,840,180
25
New York
Kirsten Gillibrand*
Democrat
7,650,294
26
Massachusetts
John Kerry
Democrat
7,626,947
27
Florida
Bob Graham
Democrat
7,559,535
28
New York
Herbert Lehman
Democrat
7,522,863
29
Pennsylvania
John Heinz
Republican
7,420,024
30
Indiana
Dick Lugar
Republican
7,323,781
31
Ohio
George Voinovich
Republican
7,259,159
32
California
John Tunney
Democrat
6,999,420
33
Michigan
Debbie Stabenow*
Democrat
6,949,056
34
New York / Connecticut
James Buckley
Conservative/Republican
6,846,109
35
New Jersey
Frank Lautenberg
Democrat
6,840,352
36
Pennsylvania
James Davis
Republican
6,765,609
37
New York
Hillary Clinton
Democrat
6,755,738
38
Pennsylvania
Joseph Clark
Democrat
6,624,686
39
California
George Murphy
Republican
6,506,169
40
California
Hiram Johnson
Republican
6,472,957
41
New York
Irving Ives
Republican
6,413,299
42
Pennsylvania
Hugh Scott
Republican
6,346,550
43
Ohio
Mike DeWine
Republican
6,264,329
44
Maryland
Barbara Mikulski*
Democrat
6,053,771
45
New York
Kenneth Keating
Republican
5,946,998
46
Pennsylvania
Rick Santorum
Republican
5,902,431
47
California
William Knowland
Republican
5,835,788
48
Michigan
Robert Griffin
Republican
5,827,982
49
New York
James Mead
Democrat
5,713,670
50
Michigan
Donald Riegel
Democrat
5,676,689
51
New Jersey
Harrison Williams
Democrat
5,482,561
52
Pennsylvania
Bob Casey
Democrat
5,414,348
53
New York
Royal Copeland
Democrat
5,407,317
54
Illinois
C. Wayland Brooks
Republican
5,368,837
55
New Jersey
Clifford Case
Republican
5,368,057
56
Virginia
John Warner
Republican
5,361,845
57
Illinois
Scott Lucas
Democrat
5,354,815
58
Wisconsin
William Proxmire
Democrat
5,339,064
59
Ohio
Robert Taft, Jr.
Republican
5,296,237
60
Washington
Patty Murray*
Democrat
5,165,795
61
Wisconsin
Herb Kohl
Democrat
5,043,739
62
Ohio
Sherrod Brown*
Democrat
5,020,059
63
North Carolina
Jesse Helms
Republican
5,004,331

* Denote U.S. Senator who is still in office. Table compiled by Smart Politics.

Overall, 63 U.S. Senate candidates have won at least five million votes since the introduction of direct elections a century ago.

Approximately two-thirds of these came from five states: New York (13), California (nine), Pennsylvania (seven), Illinois (six), and Ohio (six).

Michigan and Texas have produced four U.S. Senators with five-plus million votes, with New Jersey at three, Florida, Massachusetts, and Wisconsin with two, and Indiana, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, and Washington with one each.

Nineteen U.S. Senators in the 114th Congress currently own the record in their state for the most votes received in elections to the chamber including five Democrats mentioned above: Dianne Feinstein, Bill Nelson, Dick Durbin, Barbara Mikulski, and Patty Murray.

Also holding statewide records are Republicans Richard Shelby of Alabama, John McCain of Arizona, Mike Crapo of Idaho, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Susan Collins of Maine, Thad Cochran of Mississippi, Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Orrin Hatch of Utah, and Mike Enzi of Wyoming and Democrats Harry Reid of Nevada, Ron Wyden of Oregon, and Pat Leahy of Vermont.

That said, the record holders for some states have been out of office for many years, such as DFLer Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota, Democrat Sam Nunn of Georgia, Republican Carl Curtis of Nebraska, and Democrat William Proxmire of Wisconsin.

Interestingly, two U.S. Senators who were ousted in the 2014 cycle are the record holders for the most votes won in their respective states: Mark Udall of Colorado (2.1 million, in just two contests) and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana (3.0 million).

Most Votes Won in U.S. Senate Elections by State Record-Holder

State
Senator
Party
Votes
Alabama
Richard Shelby*
Democrat/Republican
4,660,412
Alaska
Ted Stevens
Republican
1,017,131
Arizona
John McCain*
Republican
4,500,809
Arkansas
Dale Bumpers
Democrat
1,925,718
California
Dianne Feinstein*
Democrat
28,706,238
Colorado
Mark Udall
Democrat
2,175,252
Connecticut
Chris Dodd
Democrat
3,852,886
Delaware
Joe Biden
Democrat
1,028,942
Florida
Bill Nelson*
Democrat
10,403,486
Georgia
Sam Nunn
Democrat
3,954,723
Hawaii
Daniel Inouye
Democrat
2,113,743
Idaho
Mike Crapo*
Republican
1,082,715
Illinois
Dick Durbin*
Democrat
10,030,641
Indiana
Dick Lugar
Republican
7,323,781
Iowa
Chuck Grassley*
Republican
4,576,525
Kansas
Bob Dole
Republican
2,776,728
Kentucky
Mitch McConnell*
Republican
4,340,100
Louisiana
Mary Landrieu
Democrat
3,040,996
Maine
Susan Collins*
Republican
1,446,486
Maryland
Barbara Mikulski*
Democrat
6,053,771
Massachusetts
Ted Kennedy
Democrat
13,403,673
Michigan
Carl Levin
Democrat
12,002,515
Minnesota
Hubert Humphrey
DFL
4,334,847
Mississippi
Thad Cochran*
Republican
3,423,875
Missouri
Kit Bond
Republican
4,348,227
Montana
Max Baucus
Democrat
1,348,697
Nebraska
Carl Curtis
Republican
1,206,400
Nevada
Harry Reid*
Democrat
1,529,326
New Hampshire
Judd Gregg
Republican
897,915
New Jersey
Frank Lautenberg
Democrat
6,840,352
New Mexico
Pete DeConcini
Republican
1,717,250
New York
Daniel Patrick Moynihan
Democrat
13,349,930
North Carolina
Jesse Helms
Republican
5,004,331
North Dakota
Quentin Burdick
Democrat
988,839
Ohio
John Glenn
Democrat
9,095,083
Oklahoma
Jim Inhofe*
Republican
3,118,120
Oregon
Ron Wyden*
Democrat
3,208,399
Pennsylvania
Arlen Specter
Republican/Democrat
11,234,326
Rhode Island
Claiborne Pell
Democrat
1,440,747
South Carolina
Strom Thurmond
Democrat/Republican
3,505,175
South Dakota
Tom Daschle
Democrat
725,976
Tennessee
Lamar Alexander*
Republican
3,320,526
Texas
Kay Bailey Hutchison
Republican
10,536,814
Utah
Orrin Hatch*
Republican
2,905,583
Vermont
Pat Leahy*
Democrat
976,465
Virginia
John Warner
Republican
5,361,845
Washington
Patty Murray*
Democrat
5,165,795
West Virginia
Robert Byrd
Democrat
3,663,223
Wisconsin
William Proxmire
Democrat
5,339,064
Wyoming
Mike Enzi*
Republican
553,592

* Denotes U.S. Senator who is still in office. Table compiled by Smart Politics.

Follow Smart Politics on Twitter.

2 Comments on "Who Has Won the Most Votes in US Senate Electoral History?"

  1. Do the totals for James Buckley include his 1980 race in Connecticut?

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.


*