In year of supposed angry electorate, just one congressional incumbent ousted in primary
By Joseph Weber
In the year of the supposed angry electorate, millions of frustrated voters have put their weight behind the outsider presidential campaigns of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders but continue to back congressional incumbents -- ousting only one so far in hundreds of 2016 primaries contests.
The lone victim was Pennsylvania Democratic Rep. Chaka Fattah, but his ouster appeared more about questionable ethics than frustration with Washington insiders. The 11-term congressman is facing a 29-count federal indictment related to racketeering, bribery and mail fraud.
“The year of the outside candidate is a neat, tidy package put out by the media to a certain extent,” David Payne, a Republican strategist and partner at Vox Global, said this week. “But it’s only part of the story. Look at all of the insiders who are picking up 60 percent of the vote.”
Payne argues that House districts have been “so carefully constructed” by state party officials and others to “remain stable” that few primary races are now competitive.
To be sure, members of Congress rarely lose a primary race, in which incumbents (typically) face a challenge from candidates in their own political part.
Over the past three election cycles, just 17 congressional incumbents have been ousted in a primary -- four House members in 2014, five House members and one senator in 2012, and four House members and three senators in the so-called 2010 Tea Party revolution.