Keep Rising to the Top

The last appointed senator to lose in a primary, before this year, was in 1996.

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, right, listens as running mate Tina Smith answers a question during a press conference, Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2014, in St. Paul, Minn. after Dayton won re-election Tuesday in his race against Republican Jeff Johnson.
AP Photo/Jim Mone
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Alex Clearfield
Dec. 14, 2017, 9:31 a.m.

Minnesota Lt. Gov. Tina Smith, appointed Wednesday to succeed resigning Sen. Al Franken, earned quick support from a couple of potential Democratic primary foes after confirming she will run in the special election next year to finish out the term.

Recent appointed senators have had mixed levels of competition in their first primaries, with some clearing the field, such as Tim Scott of South Carolina and Dean Heller of Nevada, while others were thrown into immediate danger.

Many haven’t run to keep their seats, but until this year—when Sen. Luther Strange lost the September runoff to Roy Moore in Alabama—the last primary loss by an appointed senator was Sheila Frahm of Kansas in 1996. Jean Carnahan of Missouri was the last to lose in the general, in 2002.

Two Democrats faced extremely tough primaries in the past decade. Hawaii’s Brian Schatz was appointed in late 2012 to succeed Daniel Inouye over Inouye’s preferred successor, Rep. Colleen Hanabusa. Schatz defeated Hanabusa by less than a point two years later.

And Colorado’s Michael Bennet pulled out an 8-point win over former state House speaker Andrew Romanoff in 2010 before surviving a hard-fought general election.

Alex Clearfield


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