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When Opposites Attract
By Ken Rudin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Friday, April 6, 2001
Question: With the recent death of Rep. Norman Sisisky (D-Va.), there are
currently three open seats in the House: Sisisky's, Pennsylvania's 9th (vacated by
Republican Bud Shuster), and California's 32nd (which became vacant following the
death of Democrat Julian Dixon). What is the turnover rate of congressional seats in
special elections -- that is, the rate of seats falling to the opposite party? The last one I
know of was a Republican winning Bill Richardson's seat in New Mexico.
Answer: That 1997 election to which you refer -- where Republican Bill Redmond won the seat vacated by Richardson -- is the last time the non-incumbent party won a special congressional election. In the 20 special elections since 1976 in which the seat went to the other party, Republicans won 14. Here's the list:
Question: When, if ever, has Congress finished session without a member of the House dying in office?
Answer: I did an exhaustive search on this, and if my files are correct, the last Congress in which a House member did not die in office was in the Fourth Congress (1795-1797). Including resignations and special elections, I count 115 House members who served in that Congress.
Question: : Did Franklin D. Roosevelt ever run for president or vice president and
Answer: In 1920, FDR - then the assistant secretary of the Navy - was chosen by Democratic presidential nominee James Cox to be his running mate. Cox, the governor of Ohio, chose Roosevelt in part because he needed to win over those Democrats who still supported retiring president Woodrow Wilson, and Roosevelt’s position in the administration was thought to be the way to do it. Cox and Roosevelt lost in a landslide to Republicans Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge.
The following August, FDR was stricken with polio. In 1928, when New York Gov. Al Smith became the Democratic nominee for president, he asked Roosevelt to run for governor. Smith lost the state, but Roosevelt won, and he used the post as a springboard to his successful presidential candidacy in 1932.
Charleston Chews: As readers of last week's column know, I was utterly fascinated with Milton Grossberg's question, in which he put forth the theory that West Virginia's 1862 secession from Virginia was not legal and thus, since it's not a bona fide state, you remove its five electoral votes and Al Gore should be awarded the presidency on the strength of his 267-266 margin in the electoral college. Made sense to me. Well, as so many of you wrote in (duh) if West Virginia's secession was illegal, then it is still part of Virginia. And thus you would have to put back West Virginia's three electoral votes into Virginia's total - giving Bush those three votes.
As Daniel Fox of Reynoldsburg, Ohio wrote, "You can't subtract all five of West Virginia's electoral votes from Bush's total. If West Virginia weren't a separate state, it wouldn't be entitled to elect senators; thus, just two of its EVs would disappear. But the people residing in those western counties would be still be entitled to representation in the House as citizens of Virginia, right? Thus, if West Virginia were still part of Virginia, Virginia would be entitled to (presumably) three more congressmen than it now has. And Virginia voted for Bush. So, instead of getting 18 total EVs from the two states of Virginia and West Virginia, Bush would have gotten 16 EVs from the state of Virginia including West Virginia. So Bush's 269 would still beat Gore's 267."
Daniel's right, of course. And so are Justin Isaac of Fairfax, Va.; Colin Canavan of Bethesda, Md.; Matt Pincus of Silver Spring, Md.; Peter Foster of Richmond, Va.; Dr. Griff Hathaway of Towson University in Towson, Md.; Bruce Moomaw of Cameron Park, Calif.; Jay Ping of Paris, Ill.; Brian Faughnan of Arlington, Va.; and Kenneth Laws of Lincoln, Neb. -- all of whom knew that the votes from western Virginia/West Virginia had to be accounted for somewhere. A truly heartfelt thanks to all of you, because this column would not be successful were it not for your input.
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