Dem House Incumbents Who Have Lost to Republicans Since 1994

Since the disaster year of 1994, very few House Democrats have failed to win re-election against Republicans. Below is what I think is a complete list of those who did. If I’m missing anyone, please let us know in comments.

Year Incumbent District
1996 Mike Ward KY-03
1996 Harold Volkmer MO-09
1996 Bill Orton UT-03
1998 Jay Johnson WI-08
2000 Sam Gejdenson CT-02
2000 David Minge MN-02
2002 Jim Maloney CT-05
2002 Karen Thurman FL-05
2002 David Phelps IL-19
2002 Bill Luther MN-06/MN-02
2002 Ronnie Shows MS-04/MS-03
2004 Baron Hill IN-09
2004 Max Sandlin TX-01
2004 Nick Lampson TX-09/TX-02
2004 Charlie Stenholm TX-17/TX-19
2004 Martin Frost TX-24/TX-32

Every Dem who lost in 2002 and 2004 except for Baron Hill was a victim of redistricting. For those with two districts listed, the second one is the seat they were running for after redistricting. (For Sandlin & Thurman, their district numbers didn’t change.) Note that I am not including Dems who lost in primaries to other Dems on this chart.

I must say, that’s a pretty darn good track record – only seven losses not attributable to redistricting through six election cycles. And I think only one of these incumbents (Mike Ward) was a freshman. (Update: Jay Johnson was also a freshman. — JL) What’s more, we’ve regained a lot of these seats (though some of the districts have changed since 2000): KY-03, WI-08, CT-02, and IN-09. Plus, Nick Lampson is back in a district that (TX-22) that partially overlaps his old one.

So what do you know about the names on this list? What lessons, if any, can be drawn from these few elections where Democratic House incumbents lost to Republicans?

Update (James): Looks like we missed one — David Phelps in IL-19.  Thanks to brittain33 in the comments for the catch.

Later Update (James): I added two more redistricting victims (Jim Maloney and Ronnie Shows), thanks to jeffmd in the comments.

40 thoughts on “Dem House Incumbents Who Have Lost to Republicans Since 1994”

  1. The lesson there is dont ever think you are a safe-incumbent if you are in a swing district.  You need to campaign or someone (Kennedy) may come up from behind all of a sudden and barely win.  Kennedy only won by I think a few hundred votes there in a swing/Repub. leaning district.  Minge didn’t run as hard as he should have until the end when he realized this was going to be close.  So dont take incumbency for granted!

  2. David Phelps (IL-19) lost in an unfair redistricting match with a Republican, John Shimkus. His hometown of El Dorado was spitefully drawn into a district based a few hundred miles away on Bloomington-Normal and most of the new district had been represented by Shimkus in the preceding Congress, and it was a rural district in 2002, so he never had a chance.


    The first two races were essentially do-overs from the 1994 Republican wave. Mike Ward barely won the district as an open seat in a three-way race in 1994. Without the third party, the Republican was able to win it the following year. Harold Volkmer was an entrenched incumbent who barely defeated Hulshof in 1994. With more funding and attention, Hulshof was able to finish te job.

    Bill Orton was a victim of sagebrush rebellion against Bill Clinton’s changing Grand Staircase-Escalante in his district into a National Monument. Since it was already of the most Republican districts in the country, even more Republican than Matheson’s district, one wonders how much time he had left anyway.


    Sam Gejdenson had poor constituent services and was more focused on international issues than potholes. He had a very close call in 1994 that was decided, I think, by 4 votes. What did him in in 2000 was a few towns turning against him en masse over land issues with one of the tribes involved with casino gambling. With an ear to the ground, he might have been able to avert it.  

  3. As soon as the current races are over.  That is the group who will redistrict after the 2010 census.  We need to id states where one or more houses can be flipped.  And if there are some happening now (NY?) get on that as well.  

    This is yet another reason why prolonging the Pres primary is destructive.  

  4. It’s proabably right that Minge didn’t run hard enough in MN-2.  

    Luther has the oddity of being the only freshman democrat (winning an open Republican seat) of 1994.  His district’s good parts were surgically removed leaving him between two districts that were pretty deeply republican.  He then ran a cautious campaign and made the silly mistake of having a volunteer run as the No More Taxes Party candidate.  The volunteer was clearly identified as a democratic supporter and was even a national delegate in 2000.

  5. I certainly get why you put together this post, and it’s a really great and valuable one.  Still, without including forced retirements (our versions of Jim Walsh and Mary Jo Kilroy), it’s hard to see the full map of seats that the GOP wrestled out of our hands, whether through campaigns or the threat of campaigns.

    Party flips would probably be an important element too.  Ralph Hall in Texas flipped after the redistricting, cause he knew he couldn’t win in his new district as a Dem but could win as a Republican.  He hadn’t been voting his party for Speaker anyway, so it wasn’t a big jump.

    I don’t know if Virgil Goode or Rodney Alexander were under electoral pressure or not when they flipped.

    Still, this is a pretty good indicator of some things, including that we haven’t lost many incumbents to actual elections in a long time.

    I’d like to see a list of GOP incumbents who have lost since 1996 (leaving out 2006 of course; who has time to read a list that long!) and then compare its length and regionality to ours.  I’m really surprised we didn’t lose more incumbents to the awful 2001 round of redistricting, but I think most of them just retired instead of get humiliated in a failed re-election.  That group at least really needs to be factored in somehow.

  6. Maloney represented CT-05 until 2002, when redistricting stuck him in the same district as Nancy Johnson, then of CT-06. Johnson beat him 54-46, if I recall correctly.

      1. Just because your legislature is split, that’s no excuse to draft the Speaker of the House (Illinois) or the Vice President (New York) to draw your maps for you and pretend they’re bipartisan.  

  7. Harold Volkmer was a very conservative Democrat whose base was in Northeastern Missouri (where most of the district is).  He barely staved off Kenny Hulshof in 1994, but Hulshof came back running an even stronger campaign in 1996.

    The fact that Hulshof won Boone County (the strongest Democratic part of the district) by 9,000 votes and St. Charles county near St. Louis by 3,000 allowed him to run even or a little behind Volkmer in the rest of the district.

    Hulshof’s strong base in Boone was ultimately what helped him take out Volkmer the second time around.  Thankfully Hulshof has vacated the seat and Boone County State Rep Judy Baker is leading the race to replace him (as she was the first one in the race before Hulshof retired).  

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