Posted: 6:45 am Tuesday, May 17th, 2016
By Jamie Dupree
The 2016 race for President continues to feature a lot of calls in both parties to change the political system, but that voter anger isn’t doing much to alter the make up of the Congress, and primaries in three more states on Tuesday will likely follow that same script.
But wait – how is that happening? Aren’t the voters hopping mad? Isn’t that why Donald Trump has done so well, and why mainstream Republican candidates went nowhere in the race for the GOP nomination?
Only true conservative candidates will get my vote. Time to fire all incumbents especially the ones in this spineless congress
— richard skeen (@richardskeen2) May 13, 2016
That type of voter attitude is everywhere in 2016 – but it hasn’t trickled down to incumbents running for re-election to the Congress.
So far, only one incumbent has been defeated in the 11 states that have held primaries for Congress – Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-PA) – and the biggest reason Fattah lost was that he was under federal indictment for corruption.
The states that have voted so far for Congress – Alabama, Arkansas, Texas, Mississippi, Illinois, Ohio, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Nebraska and West Virginia.
While the voters have tossed out just one Democrat and no Republican so far, members of Congress are once more doing most of the work to change the House and Senate – by leaving on their own terms.
Six Senators have said they are not returning next January; that number might go up after the November elections.
So far in the House, 42 members have decided to either retire or run for some other elected office – add in the one incumbent who lost, and that’s 43 who won’t be back – almost 10 percent of the House.
And that number is certain to grow, and will likely be more than the 47 who left or were defeated in 2014.
Looking at the last six election cycles from 2004-2014, only in 2010 and 2012 did the number of lawmakers defeated by the voters exceed the number of lawmakers who decided to leave Congress.
2010 was the year of the Tea Party – 54 House members lost in November; 27 lost in November of 2012, when President Obama won re-election.
Most people think only a few lawmakers leave every year, and that turnover is low – but that’s not quite accurate.
Here is the turnover percentage in recent election years for Congress:
2014 House – 11 percent (47)
2014 Senate- 12 percent (12)
2012 House – 18 percent (78)
2012 Senate- 12 percent (12)
2010 House – 22 percent (94)
2010 Senate- 13 percent (13)
2008 House – 13 percent (55)
2008 Senate- 10 percent (10)
2006 House – 11 percent (50)
2006 Senate- 11 percent (11)
2004 House – 9 percent (39)
2004 Senate- 9 percent (9)
As you can see, turnover has been in double digits in the last five election cycles for the Congress – though, I would bet most voters would never guess that.
Today, voters hold primaries in Oregon, Kentucky and Idaho. Most likely, all the incumbents will win a ticket to the general election in November in those three states.
Voter anger just doesn’t seem to be translating to the Congress yet in 2016.
About the Author
Jamie Dupree is the Radio News Director of the Washington Bureau of the Cox Media Group and writes the Washington Insider blog. A native of Washington, D.C., Jamie has covered Congress and politics in the nation’s capital since the Reagan Administration, and has been reporting for Cox since 1989.