History bodes well for Lautenberg

Elderly United States Senators tend to win re-election: of last twenty incumbent Senators to seek re-election past the age of 75, only four have been defeated. All nine Senators who sought re-election past the age of eighty have won. And only one of the fifteen Senate winners died in office — Quentin Burdick of North Dakota, who died at age 84, four years after winning his last election.

The last Senator over age 75 to lose his seat was William Roth, 79, a Delaware Republican who lost to Thomas Carper in 2000. He had served in the Senate for thirty years. Terry Sanford was 75 when he lost his bid for a second term in North Carolina in 1992. In 1980, Jacob Javits, 76, was defeated in the GOP primary in New York by Alphonse D’Amato, and 75-year-old Warren Magnuson was defeated in Washington by Slade Gorton. Javits had served in the Senate since 1955, and Magnuson since 1944.

In 2006, Robert Byrd, then 88-years-old, was re-elected in West Virginia with 64% of the vote, while Hawaii re-elected Daniel Akaka, 82, with 62%. Both are Democrats. Daniel Inouye, Democrat of Hawaii, was re-elected in 2004 at age 80.

Frank Lautenberg became the oldest New Jerseyan to win a U.S. Senate seat when he returned to public office in 2002, at age 78. That same year, 79-year-old Ted Stevens of Alaska and John Warner, 75, of Virginia, were also re-elected. Lautenberg and Stevens are seeking re-election next year, while Warner has not yet made an announcement.

South Carolina voted to re-elect Strom Thurmond to the Senate four times since his 75th birthday. He finally retired in 2002, weeks after turning 100.