Just 7 Sitting Senators Won Seats Without Previous Elected Positions

Tuesday, 20 May 2014 10:08 AM

By Melanie Batley

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Of 100 U.S. senators, just seven were elected without having previously held elected office, according to The Washington Post's Election Lab.

The correlation was discovered after the Post considered the claims by Georgia GOP Senate candidate David Perdue, who says that his previous lack of political experience is one of the reasons he expects to prevail over GOP Rep. Jack Kingston in the primary for Georgia's open seat.

"I don't think the Founders' ever envisioned the rise of the career politician. They wanted people from various backgrounds to bring their unique experience to representative government, help solve the issues of the day, and then return home," Perdue argues on his website

Perdue, the former CEO of Reebok and Dollar General, currently has an 8 to 10 point lead in recent polls over Kingston, who has served in the House since 1993. The Post notes that Senate demographics suggest that even if Perdue wins the primary, he may not ultimately secure victory in November.

"Unfortunately, Perdue's logic hasn't had a successful run in the Senate lately. Only seven current senators joined the upper house without previously being elected to another political office — as Election Lab collaborator Ben Highton discovered," the Post said, adding that all but one had at least some political or policy experience.

"Only one has come from the corporate sphere," the Post said, adding the figures aren't "the most encouraging odds."

The list of seven is comprised of Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Maine GOP Sen. Susan Collins, Wisconsin GOP Sen. Ron Johnson, Utah GOP Sen. Mike Lee, Minnesota Democratic Sen. Al Franken, Kentucky GOP Sen. Rand Paul, and Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz.

Four of the seven were elected in 2010, an indication, the Post suggests, that voters may have become more open to choosing candidates without careers in elected office, particularly in a climate where the public is dissatisfied with government.

"Voters may be increasingly aware of candidates unaffiliated with something they deem the scourge of the nation, and something that once meant 'lower name recognition and fewer contacts' may now be a boon," the Post said.

Still, if Perdue manages to pull off a primary victory, the Post said, "the unsupportive data about election newbies winning Senate seats will be in quite a pickle."

The Post concluded: "Regardless of how the Georgia Republican Senate primary ends, the race is sure to end as a test of Perdue's theory of career politicians. Whether it works to his advantage, true or false, remains to be seen."

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