Will Dan Coats Retire from the US Senate (Again)?

None of the eight Indiana U.S. Senators who served longer than Coats left the chamber on their own terms

dancoats10.jpgSenior Indiana U.S. Senator Dan Coats announced last week in a radio interview that he will make a final decision with regard to his 2016 reelection plans by the first week of April.

The Hoosier State Republican is not one of the GOP’s highest profile members, although only a dozen have served longer than Coats’ 14+ years between his two stints in the chamber (1989-1999; 2011-present).

If Coats, who sits on the Senate Finance and Select Intelligence Committees and chairs the Joint Economic Committee, does opt to retire in 2016, it is expected that several GOP Congressmen and state legislators will jump into the race for his seat in the Republican-leaning state.

Indiana’s senior Senator stepped away from the chamber once during his tenure – in 1998 after a decade of service – but to do so again once and for all in 2016, even at the age of 73, would be unusual in the annals of Indiana history.

Coats currently ranks ninth in the state for the longest U.S. Senate tenure at 14 years, 1 month, and 27 days.

Of the eight Indianans who served longer than Coats – none exited the chamber on their own terms:

● Republican Dick Lugar (1977-2013) lost his party’s nomination
● Five U.S. Senators lost their reelection bids: Republicans James Watson (1916-1933) and Homer Capehart (1945-1963) and Democrats Daniel Voorhees (1877-1897), Vance Hartke (1959-1977), and Birch Bayh (1963-1981)
● Anti-Jacksonian James Nobel (1816-1831) died in office
● Democrat Jesse Bright (1845-1862) was expelled for supporting the Southern rebellion

Overall, of the 43 Indiana U.S. Senators (excluding Coats) who left the chamber since statehood 27, or 63 percent, were forced out by one means or another.

An astounding 20 of these Indiana U.S. Senators, nearly half, lost their reelection bids – either losing their party’s nomination or the general election:

● Anti-Jacksonian William Hendricks (1825-1837)
● Whig Oliver Smith (1837-1843)
● Democrat Edward Hannegan (1843-1849)
● Democrat John Petit (1853-1855)
● Democrat David Turpie (1863; 1887-1899)
● Democrat Joseph McDonald (1875-1881)
● Republican Benjamin Harrison (1881-1887)
● Democrat Daniel Voorhees (1877-1897)
● Republican James Hemenway (1905-1909)
● Republican Albert Beveridge (1899-1911)
● Democrat Thomas Taggart (1916)
● Democrat John Kern (1911-1917)
● Republican Harry New (1917-1923)
● Republican James Watson (1966-1933)
● Republican Arthur Robinson (1925-1935)
● Democrat Sherman Minton (1935-1941)
● Republican Homer Capehart (1945-1963)
● Democrat Vance Hartke (1959-1977)
● Democrat Birch Bayh (1963-1981)
● Republican Dick Lugar (1977-2013)

It is not expected at this time that Coats would face the kind of (strong) Tea Party challenger in 2016 that befell his former colleague Lugar in 2012, nor that a Democrat would have good odds at unseating him, even in a presidential election cycle.

Another six Indiana U.S. Senators died in office:

● Anti-Jacksonian James Noble (1831)
● Democrat James Whitcomb (1852)
● Republican Oliver Morton (1877)
● Democrat Benjamin Shively (1916)
● Democrat Samuel Ralston (1925)
● Democrat Frederick Van Nuys (1944)

And, as mentioned above, one Senator was expelled from the chamber for supporting the Southern rebellion during the Civil War – Democrat Jesse Bright in February 1862. (Bright also launched a failed bid in 1863 to return to his old seat).

Of the remaining 16 U.S. Senators, two resigned after being elected Vice-President: Republicans Charles Fairbanks in 1905 and Dan Quayle in 1989.

Just 14 others did not run for another term:

● Democratic Republican/Adams-Clay Republican Walter Taylor (1816-1825)
● Anti-Jacksonian Robert Hanna (1831-1832)
● Jacksonian / Democrat John Tipton (1832-1839)
● Whig Albert White (1839-1845)
● Democrat Charles Cathcart (1852-1853)
● Democrat Graham Fitch (1857-1861)
● Republican Henry Lane (1861-1867)
● Unionist Joseph Wright (1862-1863)
● Democrat Thomas Hendricks (1863-1869)
● Republican Daniel Pratt (1869-1875)
● Republican Raymond Willis (1941-1947)
● Democrat Samuel Jackson (1944)
● Republican William Jenner (1944-1945; 1947-1959)
● Democrat Evan Bayh (1999-2011)

Four of these Senators mentioned above were never elected to their Senate seat in the first instance but were appointed and served for less than a year: Robert Hanna, Charles Cathcart, Joseph Wright, and Samuel Jackson.

A fifth, John Tipton, did not seek reelection due to poor health.

But if Coats does run for reelection in 2016, wins, and serves at least slightly more than half of that term, he will boast the second longest U.S. Senate tenure in Indiana history.

Coats will leap-frog Anti-Jacksonian James Noble (1816-1831) later this year and end his term at #8.

If reelected, Coats would then pass:

● Republican James Watson (1916-1933) and Democrat Jesse Bright (1845-1862) by January 2018
● Republican Homer Capehart (1945-1963), Democrat Vance Hartke (1959-1977), and Democrat Birch Bayh (1963-1981) in January 2019
● Democrat Daniel Voorhees (1877-1897) in May 2020

At the top of this list and out of reach, of course, is Republican Dick Lugar who logged in nearly twice as many days in the chamber as any other Indiana U.S. Senator in history.

Lugar served six full terms (36 years) before famously losing his party’s primary in 2012 to Tea Party challenger Richard Mourdock.

Coats’ fellow delegation member, Democrat Joe Donnelly who was elected in 2012, has a ways to go – coming in at #39 just over a third of the way through his first term.

Longest-Serving Indiana U.S. Senators

Rank
Senate
Party
In office
Years
Months
Days
1
Dick Lugar
Republican
1977-2013
36
0
0
2
Daniel Voorhees
Democrat
1877-1897
19
3
25
3
Vance Hartke
Democrat
1959-1977
18
0
0
3
Birch Bayh
Democrat
1963-1981
18
0
0
3
Homer Capehart
Republican
1945-1963
18
0
0
6
Jesse Bright
Democrat
1845-1862
16
11
1
7
James Watson
Republican
1916-1933
16
3
23
8
James Noble
Dem-Rep; Crawford Republican; Anti-Jacksonian
1816-1831
14
2
15
9
Dan Coats*
Republican
1989-1999; 2011-present
14
1
27
10
William Jenner
Republican
1944-1945; 1947-1959
12
11
20
11
David Turpie
Democrat
1863-1863; 1887-1899
12
1
14
12
Evan Bayh
Democrat
1999-2011
12
0
0
13
William Hendricks
Adams; Anti-Jackson
1825-1837
11
11
27
14
Albert Beveridge
Republican
1899-1911
11
11
27
15
Frederick Van Nuys
Democrat
1933-1944
10
10
21
16
Oliver Morton
Republican
1867-1877
10
7
28
17
Arthur Robinson
Republican
1925-1935
9
2
14
18
Walter Taylor
Dem-Rep; Adams-Clay Republican
1816-1825
8
2
20
19
Dan Quayle
Republican
1981-1989
8
0
0
20
Charles Fairbanks
Republican
1897-1905
7
11
27
21
John Tipton
Jacksonian; Democrat
1832-1839
7
2
0
22
Benjamin Shively
Democrat
1909-1916
7
0
10
23
Sherman Minton
Democrat
1935-1941
6
0
0
23
Raymond Willis
Republican
1941-1947
6
0
0
25
Oliver Smith
Whig
1837-1843
5
11
27
25
Albert White
Whig
1839-1845
5
11
27
25
Edward Hannegan
Democrat
1843-1849
5
11
27
25
Henry Lane
Republican
1861-1867
5
11
27
25
Thomas Hendricks
Democrat
1863-1869
5
11
27
25
Daniel Pratt
Republican
1869-1875
5
11
27
25
Joseph McDonald
Democrat
1875-1881
5
11
27
25
Benjamin Harrison
Republican
1881-1887
5
11
27
25
John Kern
Democrat
1911-1917
5
11
27
25
Harry New
Republican
1917-1923
5
11
27
35
Graham Fitch
Democrat
1857-1861
4
0
27
36
James Hemenway
Republican
1905-1909
3
11
27
37
James Whitcomb
Democrat
1849-1852
3
7
0
38
Samuel Ralston
Democrat
1923-1925
2
7
10
39
Joe Donnelly*
Democrat
2013-present
2
1
27
40
John Petit
Democrat
1853-1855
2
1
13
41
Joseph Wright
Unionist
1862-1863
0
10
21
42
Samuel Jackson
Democrat
1944-1944
0
9
16
43
Thomas Taggart
Democrat
1916-1916
0
7
18
44
Robert Hanna
Anti-Jacksonian
1831-1832
0
4
15
45
Charles Cathcart
Democrat
1852-1853
0
1
12

* Through March 1, 2015. Table compiled by Smart Politics.

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