House-to-Senate Campaigns Mostly Fail But 10 Are Trying Anyway

  • Of those giving up House seats, 40% won their Senate elections
  • Delaware Rep. Blunt Rochester favored after winning statewide

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Ten House members are betting they can overcome a clear political trend: most members of Congress who try for a seat in the Senate end up unemployed.

In the six most recent elections, 62 House incumbents gave up their seats to run for the Senate and 37 of them lost, according to data compiled by Bloomberg Government.

About half of the winners were from states with tiny or even single-member congressional delegations.

“The smaller the state, the easier it is to make the leap,” said Wendy Schiller, a political scientist at Brown University in Providence, R.I.

Among the recent winners from states with small populations: Sens. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) in 2022, Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) and Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) in 2020, and Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) in 2018.

A small-delegation lawmaker to watch in this Senate election cycle: Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.).

“I’m glad that I’ve been able to run statewide because I know what it’s like, and I know what it’s about and we’ve been doing it,” Blunt Rochester said in a Tuesday interview.

After being elected four times to Delaware’s statewide House district, she’s the dominant front-runner to succeed retiring Sen. Tom Carper (D). She starts with several advantages: she knows state and national donors, she can use her House campaign account on a Senate bid, and she won’t have to introduce herself to voters.

Tracking Departures in the 118th US Congress

“If you’re from Delaware and you’ve got one Congress member, you’re already representing all the state,” said former Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.). “If you’re one of 53 in California, you’re not running around to 53 different districts.”

Sanchez was one of her state’s 53 House members when she lost a 2016 Senate race to Kamala Harris (D), then California’s attorney general.

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Last cycle, six House members fell short in their Senate bids, some because they, like Sanchez, faced rivals who’d already run statewide.

Reps. Vicky Hartzler and Billy Long of Missouri lost the Republican primary to state attorney general Eric Schmitt, who had an extra boost from former president Donald Trump. And Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pa.) lost a primary to John Fetterman, who’d built name recognition when he ran for the Senate in 2016 and was elected lieutenant governor in 2018.

Photographers: Sarah Silbiger and Al Drago/Bloomberg
US Reps. Katie Porter, Adam Schiff, and Barbara Lee (l-r) are Democrats running for the Senate in California.

So far there’s no statewide elected official vying to succeed retiring Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) but there still will be House-member losers.

Three of them are running: Adam Schiff, the lead House impeachment manager in Trump’s first Senate trial and a target of House Republicans who voted to formally censure him last month; Katie Porter, known for her viral grilling at committee hearings; and Barbara Lee, an anti-war progressive and a senior Congressional Black Caucus member.

Other House members seeking Senate seats in 2024:

  • Colin Allred (D-Texas) decided to relinquish his strongly Democratic district in the Dallas area to challenge Sen. Ted Cruz (R) — despite his party last winning a statewide election in 1994.
  • Jim Banks (R-Ind.) has an unusually clear path after ex-Gov. Mitch Daniels opted not to run.
  • Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) is favored to win his party’s nomination, but incumbent Kyrsten Sinema, a former Democrat who became an independent last year, hasn’t said if she’ll try for a second term. A race with three major candidates could be harder to predict.
  • Alex Mooney (R-W.Va.), who’s seeking the seat of Sen. Joe Manchin (D), has been shunned by national GOP figures who prefer Gov. Jim Justice (R) as a stronger general-election candidate. Justice won his first term as a Democrat before switching parties.
  • Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.), one of the House’s most dominant fundraisers, is the front-runner for an open seat against several primary opponents.
  • David Trone (D-Md.) is primarily self-financing a Senate bid and headed toward a challenging primary. His colleague Jamie Raskin (D), who led Trump’s second impeachment, skipped the race.

Thinking About It

One of the potential additions to the list is Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.), who hasn’t yet said whether he’ll go after Sen. Jon Tester (D) now that party-backed businessman Tim Sheehy is in the race.

And Rep. Tom Tiffany (R-Wis.) said at a June 27 press conference he’d make a decision by next month on whether to take on Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D) in a state that often splits its tickets.

In April, his team bought the domain names “” and “”, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported.

If they run, they’ll need to be ready for criticism of the votes taken or missed.

Sanchez said that as she balanced her Senate campaign with a full-time House job, she began staying in Washington three days a week instead of four to campaign more in California. Harris then attacked Sanchez’s declining attendance.

“My opponent kept saying, oh, you know, she doesn’t show up for votes,” Sanchez said. “And I was just laughing because I’m thinking like, lady, you’ve never taken a vote ever.”

Sizable Contingent

Forty-four of the senators in the 118th Congress used to serve in the House — proof that giving up a two-year election cycle for one that comes up only every six years is an achievable goal.

Blunt Rochester said her candidacy was motivated in part by the appeal of the Senate-only power to vet judicial nominations, and the opportunities to work on a wider variety of issues, especially reproductive and voting rights.

And she said she’d like to be able to help change the Senate’s rules. “To me, doing away with the filibuster is also something that I think needs to be done in order for us to really meet the needs of people today in our country,” she said.

— With data visualization by Seemeen Hashem.

To contact the reporter on this story: Greg Giroux in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Katherine Rizzo at; Loren Duggan at

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