Arizona Eyes First All-Democratic US Senate Delegation In Nearly 70 Years

Only four states have had longer periods since Democrats last held both seats

With COVID-19 slowing political campaigns down to first or second gear and causing even greater uncertainty about what voter turnout will look like in November, political prognosticators seem to be facing additional speed bumps this cycle.

On paper, however, Democrats should still be optimistic about their chances of picking up Martha McSally’s U.S. Senate seat in Arizona.

Former astronaut and likely Democratic nominee Mark Kelly’s fundraising has not only far outpaced McSally (with nearly a 2:1 cash-on-hand advantage after Q1 2020) but also all challengers and incumbents running for the office this cycle.

Kelly has also consistently held a small to modest lead in head-to-head public opinion polls against McSally conducted throughout the last half-year.

Heading into this cycle, Democrats were already bullish about Arizona. In 2018 the party flipped a seat in the chamber for the first time since 1976 (Dennis DeConcini) when Kyrsten Sinema defeated McSally in a contest for Jeff Flake’s open seat.

And now Arizona Democrats have the opportunity to do something the party hasn’t accomplished in three generations.

If Kelly unseats McSally in November, Arizona will have an all-Democratic U.S. Senate delegation for the first time since January 1953 at the end of the 82nd Congress.

At that point in time, Democrats had held both seats in the Grand Canyon State since March 1927 when Carl Hayden joined Henry Ashurst in the chamber.

Ernest McFarland won Ashurst’s seat in 1940 and served two terms with Hayden until famously losing reelection as the sitting U.S. Senate Majority Leader in 1952 to Barry Goldwater.

This 67-year period since Democrats last held both seats in Arizona is the fifth longest in the nation.

Two states – Kansas and Vermont – have never sent an all-Democratic delegation to the U.S. Senate (even before the direct election era).

Utah Democrats have not controlled both U.S. Senate seats since the end of the 79th Congress in January 1947.

A 14-year period of an all-Democratic delegation in the Beehive State ended in the 1946 election when one-term incumbent Abe Murdock was defeated by Arthur Watkins.

Utah Democrats came close to recapturing their former electoral glory a few times thereafter. While Frank Moss held the state’s Class I seat (1959-1977) fellow Utah Democratic nominees came within single digits of picking off the Class III seat in 1962 (David King, 4.7 points), 1968 (Milton Weilenmann, 7.9 points), and 1974 (Wayne Owens, 5.9 points).

In Idaho, Democrats last held both seats for a brief nine-month stretch in 1949 when Glen Taylor was joined by Bert Miller. But Miller passed away in October 1949 and Republican Henry Dworshak (who Miller unseated in 1948) was appointed to the seat.

The Idaho GOP have held at least one seat in the chamber ever since.

Seventeen states are currently represented by all-Democratic U.S. Senate delegations in the 116th Congress: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Nevada, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Washington.

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3 Comments on "Arizona Eyes First All-Democratic US Senate Delegation In Nearly 70 Years"

  1. 1. “…Ashurst’s open seat in 1940…” Indeed. It should also be noted that it became ‘open’ because the future governor defeated the long-serving incumbent in the party’s PRIMARY election – the only time thus far in the Senate elections of the state that has occurred (a casual peruser could be misled to believe that Ashurst voluntarily reliquished his seat at the time).

    2. VT: IF determined by CAUCUS MEMBERSHIP, which is what really counts as a matter of functionality, then the Green Mountain State has had a de facto D delegation, continuously no less, since late May or early June of 2001 (with conversion/defection of R James Jeffords to the D caucus). Should the Ds defeat Senator Collins – whether by ‘primary’ vote outright or ‘cumulative’ vote – then the Pine Tree State too would have both its senators as members of the Caucus in the 117th.

  2. 3. “…have held at least one seat in the chamber ever since”. Aside from Taylor/Miller, the Ds also held them with Taylor and Charles Clinton Gossett, for a slightly longer interregnum, from 11 of 1945 to 11 of 1946 – marking the Gem State with the shortest duration overall of all-D senate tandem service, in terms of either outright party designation or organised caucus membership since the direct vote started (KS never had one at any point since statehood).

    Even so, they too came close to holding both seats on several occasions after 10 of ’49. While Frank Church served for nearly a quarter century in his state’s Class 3 seat, his party’s nominees came within single digits of winning over the Class 2 seat in 1972 (“Bud” Davis with a 6.8% loss), 1962 special (Gracie Bowers Pfost, 1.8%; Church himself won his second term at the same time, one of rather few cases of voters splitting ballots in ‘shotgun’ US senate elections), and 1960 (“Bob” McLaughlin, 4.6%).

  3. corona is the best killer 🙁

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