Utah is one of three states never to elect a sitting or former U.S. Representative to the office of governor
Rob Bishop’s announcement late last month that he would not seek a 10th term in the U.S. House next year was accompanied by speculation – not squashed by the 68-year old lawmaker – that he may be eying a gubernatorial bid instead.
Bishop would be the second sitting U.S. Representative to seek a governorship in the 2020 cycle – joining Montana Republican Greg Gianforte.
Utah’s 1st Congressional District lawmaker and former state house speaker has not faced a competitive legislative election across his long career that has spanned parts of five decades. [Bishop has won more than 60 percent of the vote in each of his nine terms].
That could change, of course, if he sought the governorship, with Lieutenant Governor Spencer Cox already in the race and former Governor Jon Huntsman inching closer to a bid by resigning as U.S. Ambassador to Russia on Tuesday.
If Bishop runs and wins he would make history in the Beehive State – no sitting or former member of the U.S. House has ever won the office of governor in Utah history.
Only two other states share this electoral history: Alaska and Arizona.
Ten additional states have never had a sitting U.S. Representative win a gubernatorial election, although ex-members have been successful. The most recent examples follow:
- Florida, 2018: Republican Ron Desantis (2013-2018; resigned September 2018)
- Hawaii, 2010: Democrat Neil Abercrombie (1986-1987; 1991-2010; resigned February 2010)
- Iowa, 1920: Republican Nathan Kendall (1909-1913)
- Missouri, 1928: Republican Henry Caulfield (1907-1909)
- New Hampshire, 1948: Republican Sherman Adams (1945-1947)
- Oregon, 1870: Democrat LaFayette Grover (1859)
- Rhode Island, 1838: Whig William Sprague (1835-1837)
- Vermont, 1843: Whig John Mattocks (1821-1823; 1841-1843)
- Washington, 2012: Democrat Jay Inslee (1993-1995; 1999-2012; resigned March 2012)
- Wisconsin, 1900: Republican Robert LaFollette (1885-1891)
There have already been 17 sitting U.S. Representatives who won governorships this century including four during the 2018 cycle:
- West Virginia (2000): Democrat Bob Wise (1983-2001)
- Alabama (2002): Republican Bob Riley (1997-2003)
- Illinois (2002): Democrat Rod Blagojevich (1997-2003)
- Maine (2002): Democrat John Baldacci (1995-2003)
- Maryland (2002): Republican Bob Ehrlich (1995-2003)
- Kentucky (2003): Republican Ernie Fletcher (1993-2003)
- Idaho (2006): Republican Butch Otter (2001-2007)
- Nevada (2006): Republican Jim Gibbons (1997-2006)
- Ohio (2006): Democrat Ted Strickland (1993-1995; 1997-2007)
- Louisiana (2007): Republican Bobby Jindal (2005-2008)
- Oklahoma (2010): Republican Mary Fallin (2007-2011)
- Indiana (2012): Republican Mike Pence (2001-2013)
- Delaware (2016): Democrat John Carney (2011-2017)
- Colorado (2018): Democrat Jared Polis (2009-2019)
- Minnesota (2018): DFLer Tim Walz (2017-2019)
- New Mexico (2018): Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham (2013-2018)
- South Dakota (2018): Republican Kristi Noem (2011-2019)
These aforementioned U.S. Representatives served an average of slightly more than four terms in the chamber prior to their gubernatorial wins and only one – Rep. Wise of West Virginia – was a fixture in the U.S. House as long as Bishop (nine terms). [Note: Nathan Deal of Georgia in 2010 and Rep. Abercrombie had served longer – 10 and 11 terms respectively – but technically were not sitting members of the U.S. House on Election Day, retiring some months prior].
Across history, there have been some freshmen U.S. Representatives who launched successful gubernatorial bids, such as North Dakota Democrat Arthur Link in 1972 and Indiana Republican Alvin Hovey in 1888.
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