Getting to know your new classmates is always an awkward experience, but a handful of new House members will have at least one thing in common: losing a race for governor.
Two years ago, Democrat Anthony Brown lost the Maryland gubernatorial race to Republican Larry Hogan in an upset, 51 percent to 47 percent. But the former lieutenant governor rebounded to win a competitive Democratic primary this year in Maryland’s 4th District when Rep. Donna Edwards decided to run for the Senate. Brown cruised in the general election and will be coming to Congress next year.
Republican James Comer came up 83 votes short out of 214,187 votes cast (a margin of less than one-tenth of 1 percentage point) in last year’s GOP primary for governor in Kentucky. First-place finisher Matt Bevin went on win the general election in come-from-behind fashion and Comer rebounded to win a competitive GOP primary earlier this year to replace Republican Rep. Ed Whitfield in the state’s 1st District.
Republican Scott Angelle finished third in last year’s open primary for governor in Louisiana. He finished about four points behind GOP Sen. David Vitter and, like Comer, he probably would have been elected governor had he made it to the final race. Angelle subsequently finished first in this year’s open-seat race in the 3rd District, but must get past fellow Republican Clay Higgins in the Dec. 10 run-off.
The 2006 race for governor in New York featured two new members of Congress.
Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi got crushed by Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, 81 percent to 19 percent, in the Democratic primary, but was elected this year to represent New York’s 3rd District. Spitzer crushed Republican John Faso 69 percent to 29 percent, in the general election that year, but Faso won this year’s race in the 19th District.
Democrat Charlie Crist served a term as governor of Florida as a Republican from 2007 to 2011, but he also lost the 2014 gubernatorial race, 48 percent to 47 percent, to GOP Gov. Rick Scott, so he, too, qualifies for the club. This year, Crist was elected to the Sunshine State’s 13th District after defeating Republican Rep. David Jolly 52 percent to 48 percent.
It’s no accident that these former gubernatorial candidates won congressional races. Previous statewide campaigns can give candidates higher name identification, a broader donor base, and experience that gives them an advantage in a House race, particularly against a crowded field.
The gubernatorial losers are just another example of the fact that losing a race can often be a comma, rather than a period, on a political career. More than 40 percent of the freshman class of the 114th Congress had an earlier electoral loss on their record.