Strickland Would Be Oldest True Freshman US Senator Popularly Elected to Full Term

Only a dozen U.S. Senators have been seated in the chamber for the first time at the age of 75+ years: nine were appointed, two were elected by state legislatures, and one won a special election

tedstrickland10.jpgTed Strickland announced news Wednesday that many Democrats had been hoping to hear for weeks – the former Ohio Governor is challenging one-term Republican U.S. Senator Rob Portman in 2016.

Strickland was seen as the top-tier Democratic recruit for the seat – a well-known winner of a statewide election who has been running for political office in Ohio for decades.

Although not always with success: before becoming governor, Strickland lost nearly as many campaigns for the U.S. House (1976, 1978, 1980, 1994) as he won (1992, 1996, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2004).

Strickland then narrowly lost his 2010 reelection bid to current governor (and former Ohio U.S. House delegation member) John Kasich.

Forty years of off and on campaigning has not deterred Strickland from seeking a high profile office once again.

But to do so he’ll need to make history.

A Smart Politics review of Congressional biographical data finds that if Strickland defeats Portman in 2016, he will become the oldest politician to take a seat in the U.S. Senate for the first time after winning a direct election to a full term.

If Strickland wins the 2016 race, he would be sworn into office in January 2017 at the age of 75 years and 5 months.

That would rank 13th all-time for the oldest true freshman to enter the chamber – only 12 previous members were at least 75 years old at the time they were first sworn in.

Nine of these 12, however, were appointed to their U.S. Senate seat:

● Georgia Democrat Rebecca Felton (1922): 87 years, 3 months, 24 days
● Texas Democrat Andrew Houston (1941): 86 years, 10 months, 1 day
● Vermont Republican John Stewart (1908): 82 years, 4 months, 1 day
● Nebraska Democrat William Thompson (1933): 79 years, 5 months, 11 days
● New Jersey Republican David Baird (1918): 78 years, 10 months, 17 days
● New Hampshire Republican Gilman Marston (1889): 77 years, 6 months, 13 days
● Virginia Democrat Thomas Burch (1946): 76 years, 10 months, 29 days
● Oregon Democrat Hall Lusk (1960): 76 years, 5 months, 25 days
● Mississippi Democrat James Gordon (1909): 76 years, 22 days

Most of these appointees did not serve long in the U.S. Senate, however, lasting an average of just 194 days with only two serving more than a year – Thompson at 532 days and Baird at 374.

That leaves just three politicians who were older than Strickland upon first being seated in the U.S. Senate, should the former governor defeat Portman next year.

Two of those U.S. Senators, however, were not elected by popular vote – entering office before the passage of the 17th Amendment.

Alabama Democrat Edmund Pettus entered the chamber in March 1897 at the age of 75 years, 7 months, 27 days and served 10 years there until his death in 1907.

Wisconsin Republican Isaac Stephenson won a special election to fill the seat after the resignation of John Spooner in 1907 at the age of 77 years and 11 months. Stephenson was reelected by the Badger State legislature in 1909 and served until 1915.

That leaves only one U.S. Senator who was first elected to the chamber at the age of 75+ years by popular vote, although it was only for a partial term of slightly more than a month.

West Virginia Republican Hugh Shott, who had failed to unseat Democrat Matthew Neely in 1936, won a special election in November 1942 to finish Neely’s term after he resigned to become governor the year prior.

Shott was 76 years, 2 months, 16 days of age when he was sworn in, but served only 37 days until January 1943.

In short, no 75 year-old has ever won an election to a full term to the U.S. Senate in the direct election era without previous service in the chamber on their resume.

The oldest Ohioan to first enter the U.S. Senate is Democrat Henry Payne.

Payne was 74 years, 3 months, 5 days of age when he took his seat in March 1885 – nearly a quarter century after his first bid for a U.S. Senate seat.

That is good for the 13th oldest mark in U.S. history.

Payne, who had served one term in the U.S. House in the mid-1870s, served six years in the upper legislative chamber and then retired.

At the moment, Strickland does not quite have a clear path to the nomination. Cincinnati Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld had previously entered the race with some fanfare for the party, though the former governor’s candidacy will very likely put Sittenfeld’s congressional plans on hold.

12 First-Time U.S. Senators Who Entered the Chamber at 75+ Years Old

Rank
US Senator
State
Party
Year
Years
Months
Days
1
Rebecca Felton*
Georgia
Democrat
1922
87
3
24
2
Andrew Houston*
Texas
Democrat
1941
86
10
1
3
John Stewart*
Vermont
Republican
1908
82
4
1
4
William Thompson*
Nebraska
Democrat
1933
79
5
11
5
David Baird*
New Jersey
Republican
1918
78
10
17
6
Isaac Stephenson**
Wisconsin
Republican
1907
77
11
0
7
Gilman Marston*
New Hampshire
Republican
1889
77
6
13
8
Thomas Burch*
Virginia
Democrat
1946
76
10
29
9
Hall Lusk*
Oregon
Democrat
1960
76
5
25
10
Hugh Shott***
West Virginia
Republican
1942
76
2
16
11
James Gordon*
Mississippi
Democrat
1909
76
0
22
12
Edmund Pettus**
Alabama
Democrat
1897
75
7
27

* Appointed to seat. ** Elected by state legislature. *** Won special election. Compiled by Smart Politics with information culled from the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.

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1 Comment on "Strickland Would Be Oldest True Freshman US Senator Popularly Elected to Full Term"

  1. Charlie Rushforth | May 15, 2016 at 10:37 am | Reply

    Can’t help but wonder how old that picture is?

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