Tag Archives: Frank Lautenberg

A Whole Lot of Turnover Goin’ On

B000243On Tuesday, April 23, Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) (pictured) announced that he was not running for re-election in 2014. He joins a long list of Senators who have announced that they will not be candidates for re-election in 2014. They are Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Mike Johanns (R-NE), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ), Carl Levin (D-MI),  and Jay Rockefeller (D-WV). Two other Senators, Jim DeMint (R-SC) and John Kerry (D-MA), resigned. Listed below are the months and years as to when each Senator first began his term.

Senator and Starting Month/Year
Baucus – December 1978
Levin – January 1979
Harkin – January 1985
Kerry – January 1985
Rockefeller – January 1985
Johnson – January 1997
Chambliss – January 2003
Lautenberg – January 2003 (current term); 1982-2001 (previous)
DeMint – January 2005
Johanns – January 2009

With the exception of Lautenberg, each of these Senators would have had a relatively easy re-election in 2014. Lautenberg would have faced a tough primary challenge in Newark Mayor Cory Booker (D). If Lautenberg survived that primary, he would have won in the general election, since New Jersey trends Democratic electorally. The question remains, “Why retire?” If the chances for re-election were quite high, then why move on?

In Kerry’s case, he was named Secretary of State. In DeMint’s case, he took a position at the conservative think tank known as the Heritage Foundation. Some of these Senators claim that the partisan rancor in Washington caused them to step down. Others have said that their age was a determining factor. Could it also be that some do not want to face their records come 2014? In Baucus’s case, speculation has arisen that the Senator does not want to defend his stance of Obamacare and that is his reason for stepping down. In any case, there’s a whole of turnover in the Senate going on. The question is, “Why?”

Recent Senate Retirements/Resignations

At the time of this post, six United States Senators have announced that they will not be candidates for re-election in 2014.  They are
Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Mike Johanns (R-NE), Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ), Carl Levin (D-MI), and Jay Rockefeller (D-WV).  Two other Senators, Jim DeMint (R-SC) and John Kerry (D-MA), resigned.  DeMint becae the head of the conservative think tank, The Heritage Foundation.  Kerry became President Obama’s Secretary of State, replacing Hillary Clinton.
What is your assessment of these recent retirements?  What would cause a Senator or any member of Congress to retire from office in such an abrupt fashion?  With the exception of Johanns, all were multi-term Senators.  Why retire now?

Cory Booker and Primary Challenges

There was a lot of talk surrounding the 2014 US Senate Exploratory Committee formed by Newark, New Jersey Mayor Cory Booker this past week.  If Booker decides to go ahead with a full-fledged campaign, we will have to go through Frank Lautenberg to earn a shot at the Senate seat.  Both Booker and Lautenberg are Democrats.  Booker, 43, is a much talked about politician who may represent the future of the Democratic Party.  Lautenberg, 88, is a stalwart of the party and served (with a brief retirement from 2001-2002) in the Senate since 1982.  When he has faced primary challenges, Lautenberg has vanquished them quite easily.  Booker, however, will be the Senator’s toughest challenge yet.  His entrance came with the requisite not-so kind words from the incumbent’s camp.

One must remember, however, that with incumbency comes its rewards.  Lautenberg has a widely known name recognition, a considerable Senate record, the ability to fundraise, and a wide assortment of Democratic allies at this disposal.  Something else going against Booker is the lack of successful primary challenges since Lautenberg became Senator in 1982.  Since 1982, only eight incumbents have lost to opponents in primary elections.

1992:  Carol Moseley-Braun (D-IL) defeated Sen. Alan Dixon

1996:  Sam Brownback (R-KS) defeated Sen. Sheila Frahm

2002:  John Sununu (R-NH) defeated Sen. Bob Smith

2006:  Ned Lamont (D-CT) defeated Sen. Joe Lieberman

2010:  Joe Miller (R-AK) defeated Sen. Lisa Murkowski; Mike Lee (R-UT) defeated Sen. Bob Bennett; Joe Sestak (D-PA) defeated Sen. Arlen Specter

2012:  Richard Mourdock (R-IN) defeated Sen. Richard Lugar

There are some interesting caveats with these challenges though.  In two of those cases, the incumbent party ended up losing the seat to the opposition (2012 – IN; 2010 – PA).  Two other cases found the incumbent who lost in primary end up keeping the seat in the general election.  Lieberman ran as a third party candidate in his general election, while Murkowski ran as a write-in and won.  In Frahm’s case, she was appointed to the position after Bob Dole resigned in order to run for President in 1996.  Bennett was defeated in a Utah Republican Party state convention vote and finished third, not only to Lee but to small businessman Tim Bridgewater.  Sestak defeated Specter who previously switched from the Republican to Democratic Party in 2009.  John Sununu defeated a weakened Bob Smith, who flirted with Presidential ambitions as a member of the US Taxpayers Party.  Out of the eight primary challenges, only two, Moseley-Braun and Mourdock, ran against two strong incumbents.  You could argue, however, that Dixon’s vote for Clarence Thomas for Supreme Court Justice hurt his re-election campaign, and that Tea Party activists outside of teh Republican Party establishment contributed heavily to the Lugar’s defeat.

That is what makes Booker’s run against Lautenberg so interesting.  Lautenberg is considered to be a strong incumbent by New Jersey Democrats.  He does not have the same baggage or problems that weighed down and subsequently defeated other incumbents in their respective primaries.  If Booker does win his primary fight, then it is highly likely that the Democrats will hold that seat after the general election, as the Republicans do not have a strong bench after Governor Chris Christie.  If Booker should lose to Lautenberg, then the Booker brand as a future standard bearer of the Democratic Party is diminished.  Booker must run a spirited campaign against Lautenberg in order to give himself a fighting chance.  After all, recent history tells us that it is very difficult to defeat an incumbent in a primary election.

What are your thoughts on this race?