Election Firsts & Notables

Election Firsts

First Designated Congressional Election

The 1876 congressional elections were the first to be held on the “Tuesday next after the first Monday in November, is hereby fixed and established as the day for the election . . . of Representatives and Delegates to the Congress.” President Ulysses S. Grant signed the law on February 2, 1872. Because Senators were elected by state legislatures instead of popular elections, the law didn’t apply to the Senate until the ratification of the Seventeenth Amendment in 1913.

The First House Contested Election

On April 29, 1789, the House Committee on Elections reported its first-contested election case, Ramsay v. Smith from South Carolina.

Member Election Notables

First House Member to Represent Two States

Daniel Hiester served the state of Pennsylvania in the 1st through 4th Congresses (1789–1796) and the state of Maryland during the 7th and 8th Congresses (1801–1804).

First Known Representative to be Elected by a Write-In Vote

Charles F. Curry Jr. of California won election to the 72nd Congress (1931–1933) as a write-in candidate on November 4, 1930. Oldest Known Freshman Representative: On July 7, 1953, after winning a special election at the age of 78, James B. Bowler of Illinois became the oldest known freshman Member to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Youngest Person ever to be elected to the House

Representative William Charles Cole Claiborne of Tennessee, elected to the 5th Congress (1797–1799) at the age of 22. The youngest woman to be elected is Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, sworn in to the 116th Congress (2019–2021) at the age of 29 years, 2 months, 22 days. The prior record was held by Representative Elise Stefanik of New York, elected to the 114th Congress (2015–2017) at the age of 30.

Longest Period of Nonconsecutive Service in the House

At 34 years, Representative Philip F. Thomas of Maryland has the longest period of nonconsecutive service in House history. Representative Thomas served in the 26th Congress (1839–1841), and was later re-elected to the 44th Congress (1875–1877). Record Number of Traditional Freshman: The 54th Congress (1895–1897) brought in a record-setting freshman class of 178 traditional first-term Members. The record-breaking Congress’s makeup was not complete on opening day. It had the largest recorded number of contested elections at a total of 38 cases.

First Posthumous Election: According to the Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress, John Coffee of Georgia died September 25, 1836, but was reelected posthumously on October 3, 1836, “announcement of his death not having been received.”

First Parent/Child Succession in the House

The first two instances of the child of a former House Member being elected to the House occurred in the 9th Congress (1805–1807). Jonathan Sturges of Connecticut served in the Continental Congress (1786) as well the 1st and 2nd Congresses (1789–1793). His son, Lewis Sturges of Connecticut, served in the 9th through 14th Congresses (1805–1817). Thomas Claiborne of Virginia served in the 3rd through 5th Congresses (1793–1799) and the 7th through 8th Congresses (1801–1805). His son, John Claiborne of Virginia, served in the 9th and 10th Congresses (1805–1808).

Member Running for Congress on Different Political Party Platforms

Notably, Nathaniel Banks of Massachusetts ran for election to the U.S. House on five different party tickets: American Party, Democrat, Republican, Liberal Republican, and Independent. Banks was successful in all but the Liberal Republican ticket.

Members Who Ran Multiple House Campaigns Before Being Elected to the House

Two examples of Members who ran for Congress multiple times before winning election: George Bender of Ohio lost elections in 1930, 1932, 1934, and 1936, before winning his first election in 1938. Frank Kniffin of Ohio lost elections in 1922, 1924, 1926, and 1928, before winning his first election in 1930.