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A Brief History of Senate Republican Leadership Elections

A Brief History of Senate Republican Leadership Elections

Senate Republicans contested leadership races on a regular basis prior to the 104th Congress. However, the frequency of competitive contests declined dramatically after Republicans placed term limits on their leadership positions in 1995 (exempting the Republican floor leader and the president pro tempore). Republicans’ contested leadership elections since the 94th Congress are listed below.

Pre-Term Limits: Republicans averaged 2 contested leadership elections every Congress. Incumbents were also frequently challenged.

Post-term limits: Republicans averaged less than one contested leadership elections every Congress. The only incumbent to be challenged during this period was Larry E. Craig, R-Idaho, who defeated Pete V. Domenici’s, R-N.Mex, bid to chair the Republican Policy Committee in the 107th Congress.

While contested leadership elections are rare in the post-term limit era, the narrow margins of victory featured in those contests that do occur suggests that the decline in competitiveness is not due to increased unanimity among Republicans regarding their leadership. On those occasions when the rank-and-file are offered a choice between two competing visions, they almost always divide evenly.

94th Congress

Conference Chair

Carl T. Curtis, R-Neb., defeated Jacob K. Javits, R-N.Y. by a vote of 23 to 14.

95th Congress

Floor Leader

Howard H. Baker, R-Tenn., defeated Robert P. Griffin, R-Mich., by a vote of 19 to 18.

Conference Vice Chair

Clifford P. Hansen, R-Wyo., defeated Robert T. Stafford, R-Vt., by a vote of 20 to 17.

96th Congress

Conference Chair

Robert W. Packwood, R-Ore., defeated James A. McClure, R-Idaho, by a vote of 22 to 19.

Conference Vice Chair

Edward J. Garn, R-Utah, defeated John H. Chafee, R-R.I., by a vote of 21 to 19.

National Republican Senatorial Committee Chair (NRSC)

John Heinz III, R-Pa., defeated Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, by a vote of 21 to 20.

97th Congress

Conference Chair

James A. McClure, R-Idaho, defeated John Heinz III, R-Pa., by a vote of 33 to 20.

98th Congress

NRSC

Richard G. Lugar, R-Ind., defeated Robert W. Packwood, R-Ore., by a vote of 29 to 25.

99th Congress

Floor Leader

Robert J. Dole, R-Kans., defeated Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, Richard G. Lugar, R-Ind., Pete V. Domenici, R-N.Mex., and James A. McClure, R-Idaho. Dole prevailed over Stevens on the fourth (and final) ballot by a vote of 28 to 25.

Whip

Alan K. Simpson, R-Wyo., defeated Slade Gorton, R-Wash., and Robert W. Kasten, R-Wis.. Simpson prevailed over Gorton on the second (and final) ballot by a vote of 31 to 22.

Conference Chair

John H. Chafee, R-R.I., defeated Edward J. Garn, R-Utah, by a vote of 28 to 25.

Conference Vice Chair

Thad Cochran, R-Miss., defeated Rudy E. Boschwitz, R-Minn., by a vote of 32 to 21.

NRSC

John Heinz III, R-Pa., defeated Malcolm Wallop, R-Wyo., by a vote of 27 to 26.

100th Congress

No contested races

101st Congress

Conference Chair

John H. Chafee, R-R.I., defeated Frank H. Murkowski, R-Alaska, by a vote of 28 to 17.

NRSC

Don Nickles, R-Okla., defeated John McCain, R-Ariz., by a vote of 28 to 17.

102nd Congress

Conference Chair

Thad Cochran, R-Miss., defeated John H. Chafee, R-R.I., by a vote of 22 to 21.

Conference Vice Chair

Robert W. Kasten, R-Wis., defeated Christopher S. Bond, R-Mo., and Trent Lott, R-Miss., by a vote of 26 (Kasten) to 17 (Bond) and 20 (Lott).

Policy Committee (RPC)

Don Nickles, R-Okla., defeated Pete V. Domenici, R-N.Mex., on the second ballot by a vote of 23 to 20 (after a tie vote on the first ballot).

NRSC

Phil Gramm, R-Tex., defeated Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., by a vote of 26 to 17.

103rd Congress

Whip

Alan K. Simpson, R-Wyo., defeated Slade Gorton, R-Wash., by a vote of 25 to 14.

Conference Vice Chair

Christopher S. Bond, R-Mo., defeated Frank H. Murkowski, R-Alaska, by a vote of 14 to 5.

NRSC

Phil Gramm, R-Tex., defeated Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., by a vote of 20 to 19.

104th Congress

Floor Leader

Trent Lott, R-Miss., defeated Thad Cochran, R-Miss., by a vote of 44 to 8 (in 1996 after Robert J. Dole, R-Kans., stepped down from the position).

Whip

Trent Lott, R-Miss., defeated Alan K. Simpson, R-Wyo., by a vote of 27 to 26.

RPC

Larry E. Craig, R-Idaho, defeated Daniel R. Coats, R-Ind., and Robert F. Bennett, R-Utah. Craig prevailed over Coats on the second (and final) ballot by a vote of 30 to 22.

105th Congress

(Leadership Term Limits Take Effect)

Conference Chair

Paul D. Coverdell, R-Ga., defeated Conrad R. Burns, R-Mont., by a vote of 41 to 14.

106th Congress

NRSC

Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., defeated Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., by a vote of 39 to 13.

107th Congress

Conference Chair

Rick Santorum, R-Pa., defeated Christopher S. Bond, R-Mo., by a vote of 30 to 20.

RPC

Larry E. Craig, R-Idaho, defeated Pete V. Domenici, R-N.Mex, by a vote of 26 to 24.

108th Congress

No contested races

109th Congress

NRSC

Elizabeth Dole, R-N.C., defeated Norm Coleman, R-Minn., by a vote of 28 to 27.

110th Congress

Whip

Trent Lott, R-Miss., defeated Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., by a vote of 25 to 24.

Conference Chair

Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., defeated Richard Burr, R-N.C., by a vote of 31 to 16.

111th Congress

No contested races

112th Congress

Conference Vice Chair

Roy Blunt, R-Mo., defeated Ron Johnson, R-Wis., by a vote of 25 to 22.

113th Congress

No contested races

114th Congress

No contested races

(Editor’s note: A previous version of this post incorrectly listed the leadership contest between Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Richard Burr, R-N.C., in the 110th Congress under RPC. Alexander and Burr were running for Conference Chair.)

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