1 in 7 US House Races Have Only One Major Party Candidate on November Ballot

New Hampshire has both the largest (179 in a row) and longest (since 1856) streaks of fielding U.S. House nominees from both major parties; Minnesota, Idaho, and Montana also have streaks north of 100

ushouseseal20With primary season nearly over, attention will soon turn in all 50 states to the November election.

While there are still many unknowns as to how this wild card of a cycle will play out, the outcomes of dozens of U.S. House races have essentially already been decided.

Smart Politics examined the official general election candidate lists in all 50 states to determine in which districts either Democrats or Republicans did not field candidates this cycle.

Both major parties landed nominees in all U.S. House races in 28 states: Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

But voters in 64 districts across the remaining 22 states will have the choice of only one major party candidate, or more than one in seven contests (14.7 percent). [This tally includes 11 seats in California and Washington – states with nonpartisan blanket primary laws that moved the top two finishers, regardless of party, to the general election].

For some states, the 2016 cycle continues decades of continuous major party choices in congressional contests, but the longest streak in the nation has come to an end for one state.

A Smart Politics review of congressional election data finds that New Hampshire (179), Minnesota (152), Idaho (111), and Montana (102) lead the nation with 100+ consecutive U.S. House general and special election contests offering both Democratic and Republican nominees on the ballot, with streaks in New Hampshire, Montana, Delaware, and Wyoming dating back to the 1800s.

But the streak for Indiana has come to the end.

Prior to 2016, Indiana had led the way by placing both Democratic and Republican nominees on the ballot in 189 consecutive congressional races across 19 election cycles from 1978 through 2014.

However, Indiana Republicans are not running a candidate this cycle against 16-term Peter Visclosky in the state’s 1st Congressional District. [The long-serving congressman will face 2014 Libertarian nominee Donna Dunn].

Indiana’s 1st CD has long been a Democratic stronghold – last voting Republican for the office 88 years ago in 1928.

The closest Republicans have come to defeating Visclosky during his 16 victories since 1984 was during the Republican Revolution of 1994 when John Larson lost by 12.9 points.

In 2014, Visclosky defeated frequent opponent Mark Levya by 25.0 points – the third closest margin of his career. [Levya also squared off against Visclosky in 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008, and 2010].

Prior to 2016, the last time voters in Indiana did not have two major party candidates on the ballot in a U.S. House race was in 1976 when six-term Democrat Lee Hamilton ran unopposed in the state’s 9th CD contest.

With Indiana’s streak coming to an end this cycle, New Hampshire now becomes the leader in the clubhouse for both the largest and longest streaks in the nation.

New Hampshire has fielded Republicans and Democrats in 179 consecutive U.S. House contests dating back to the 1856 cycle – the first year Republicans appeared  on the state’s congressional ballot in U.S. House races.

Despite Republicans dominating these congressional races over the decades (the GOP has won 146 of the 179 general and special elections in the state since the 1850s, or 81.6 percent), New Hampshire Democrats have persisted and continuously placed nominees on the ballot.

Gradually closing the gap on New Hampshire is Minnesota, which comes in second at 152 races in a row.

Minnesota voters have had the choice of candidates from both major parties in every U.S. House race for 19 consecutive cycles dating back to 1980.

If the streaks continue for both states, Minnesota will overtake New Hampshire during the 2026 cycle (barring reapportionment and special elections) when it reaches a streak of 194 in a row (New Hampshire will be at 189).

The last candidate to run without major party opposition in the Gopher State was DFLer Jim Oberstar in 1978 when he was challenged by only an American Party candidate to record his third of 18 victories from Minnesota’s 8th CD.

Minnesota’s streak is particularly notable due to the state’s moderately large population (eight congressional districts); more districts means there are more opportunities for gerrymandering and extremely partisan districts where it is more difficult for the party out of power to recruit candidates.

The Minnesota GOP has nonetheless continued to serve up nominees in the Democratic-heavy 4th (Minneapolis) and 5th (St. Paul) CDs.

Of the 11 states with current streaks that date back prior to 2000, only Minnesota has had U.S. House delegations of more than three seats. The other 10 states are Alaska, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming.

Two other states have fielded nominees from both major parties in more than 100 consecutive elections – Idaho and Montana.

Idaho voters, though opting for the Republican candidate in 75+ percent of U.S. House contests since the streak began in 1902, have had a Republican and Democratic option in each of the last 111 contests.

The last time a Democrat or Republican failed to appear on the Idaho ballot was in 1900 when Populist Thomas Glenn won the state’s at-large seat against Republican John Morrison.

Montana’s streak has now reached 102 in a row. It has been 120 years since a major party failed to field a candidate in the Treasure State, when Republican and Silver Republican candidates squared off in the 1896 race for its at-large seat.

Also extending its streak this cycle at #5 is Maine at 84 consecutive races with Democratic and Republican candidates in U.S. House contests dating all the way back to 1944.

Former six-term Republican Frank Fellows was the last candidate in Maine to run without any major party opposition – doing so in the state’s 3rd Congressional District in 1942.

Maine Republicans continued to field candidates for a nine-cycle stretch in which they lost every race from 1996 to 2012 ending with Bruce Polquin’s victory in the open 2nd CD race in 2014.

Rounding out the Top 10 are South Dakota at 69 in a row, Delaware and Wyoming (66 each), Michigan (59), and Iowa and North Dakota (42 each).

After New Hampshire (1856) the longest streaks in the nation are held by Delaware (1888), Wyoming (1890), Montana (1898), Idaho (1902), South Dakota (1932), Maine (1944), North Dakota (1954), Alaska (1958), Minnesota (1980), and Hawaii (1990).

Wyoming and Alaska (#14, 31 in a row) are the only two states that have fielded Democratic and Republican candidates in every U.S. House race since statehood. [New Hampshire’s statehood date preceded the formation of the GOP].

But Indiana was not the only state to see their streak end during the 2016 cycle. Six other states had at least one major party fall short in at least one district.

Illinois voters had choices of both major parties in 58 consecutive contests since 2010 but this year Republicans failed to run candidates against Dan Lipinski (IL-03) and Luis Gutierrez (IL-04) while Democrats came up empty against John Shimkus (IL-15) and Adam Kinzinger (IL-16).

Neighboring Wisconsin had their streak of 24 in a row since 2010 end with Republicans failing to run candidates against Ron Kind (WI-03) and Gwen Moore (WI-04).

Kentucky had a run of 19 straight contests since 2010 end with Democrats failing to field candidates this year against Bret Guthrie (KY-02) and Hal Rogers (KY-05). This is the sixth time Rogers, a 17-term representative, has not received a major party challenger (also 1986, 1988, 1990, 1996, and 2004).

Nebraska had fielded candidates from both parties in 18 consecutive contests dating back to 2004 but Democrats do not have a nominee against Adrian Smith (NE-03).

Oregon Democrats and Republicans placed candidates on the ballot in 16 straight contests since 2010 but the GOP is not running a candidate against Earl Blumenauer (OR-03).

It was not much of a streak in Kansas, where the parties fielded candidates in all four contests in 2014, but saw Democrats fail to line up a candidate in the 1st CD this year against Roger Marshall (who defeated incumbent Tim Huelskamp in the GOP primary last month).

In general, most of the seats with only one major party candidate on the ballot were blowouts in 2014. Excluding the 11 seats in California and Washington, the average victory margin was 56 points two years ago.

However, six of these U.S. House districts were decided by less than 20 points last cycle:

  • AR-04: Republican Bruce Westerman won his first term by 11.2 points
  • AZ-03: Democrat Raúl Grijalva won his seventh term by 11.5 points
  • NY-17: Democrat Nita Lowey was victorious by 12.9 points to win her 14th term
  • WI-03: Democrat Ron Kind won his 10th term by 13.0 points
  • MA-06: Democrat Seth Moulton won his first term by 13.8 points
  • VA-11: Democrat Gerry Connolly notched his fourth term with a 16.5-point victory

Voters in 18 districts have not had the option of both major parties in each of the last two cycles.

Democrats failed to field candidates in 2014 and 2016 in AL-04, AR-03, AZ-08, GA-14, PA-18, TX-04, TX-05, TX-08, and TX-11 while Republicans struck out in GA-13, LA-02, MA-01, MA-02, MA-05, MA-07, NY-09, NY-16, and TX-20.

Overall, there will be no Republican nominees in 35 U.S. House races this November and no Democrats in 29.

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3 Comments on "1 in 7 US House Races Have Only One Major Party Candidate on November Ballot"

  1. Would AK not have elected a non-voting delegate in the 1958 election, since it then lacked statehood status?

    • Eric Ostermeier | September 8, 2016 at 7:59 am | Reply

      Actually no – the state’s election for this seat, held a couple weeks after the November 1958 general election, was for the US REP to be seated January 3, 1959 (when statehood became official).

  2. Wow, thanx. (So, AK, unlike HI, formally became a state in the early half of ’59; one learns something new everyday.)

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