Vance McAllister is nowhere near the shortest-serving lawmaker in congressional history

Rep. Vance McAllister (R-La.) and his wife, Kelly, check in at Monroe Regional Airport on their way to Washington, D.C. on Monday. (AP via The News-Star, Emerald Mcintyre)

Rep. Vance McAllister (R-La.) announced Monday that he won't run for reelection as Louisiana Republicans pressured him to step down after video surfaced a few weeks ago of him kissing a former staffer.

McAllister was sworn in on Nov. 16, 2013, and the next Congress begins on Jan. 3, 2015, so he will have lasted only about 13 and a half months -- roughly 415 days -- in Washington. That's just a few weeks longer than Rep. Trey Radel (R-Fla.), who resigned in January after pleading guilty to misdemeanor cocaine possession. He joined Congress in January 2013 and served 389 days, making his the second-shortest term by a Florida lawmaker in congressional history.

So how do McAllister and Radel stack up with other short-timers? Well, it's complicated.


The Office of the Historian of the House of Representatives doesn't keep a tally of the shortest-serving members, because there are several variables, including instances when someone was elected to a House seat but died or resigned before taking office.

This much we know: Historians generally agree that Effingham Lawrence is the shortest-serving lawmaker ever. He served as a Democratic representative for just one day – March 3, 1875 – on the last day of the 43rd session of Congress.

Recent reports by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service gives us a general sense of lengths of tenure.

Image courtesy of the Congressional Research Service.

At the start of the current Congress, the average years of service ran 9.1 years, according to CRS. During the 20th century, the average years of service for House members steadily increased a little more than four years to approximately a decade in the three most recent congressional sessions.

And as the chart below shows, the percentage of House lawmakers who decide not to seek reelection has steadily dropped through the years. In other words, being a lawmaker has become more and more of a career than a temporary profession:

Image courtesy of the Congressional Research Service.



Things are a little easier to track in the upper chamber, where the historian's office has kept this nifty list of short-time senators for years. Notice that several have served just in the past years after a series of deaths, resignations and campaigns for higher office led to a series of vacancies:

RELATED: Vance McAllister won’t seek reelection, but plans to finish his term

Ed O’Keefe is covering the 2016 presidential campaign, with a focus on Jeb Bush and other Republican candidates. He's covered presidential and congressional politics since 2008. Off the trail, he's covered Capitol Hill, federal agencies and the federal workforce, and spent a brief time covering the war in Iraq.



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