Oldest and Youngest Congressional Candidates of the Cycle

by Nathan L. Gonzales January 10, 2014 · 9:17 AM EST

When it comes to running for Congress, age ain’t nothin’ but a number.

The special election for Florida’s 13th District is a good example of the broad age spectrum of candidates running for Congress this cycle. Democrat Alex Sink is positioning herself to pick up the open seat in the March special election — three months before her 66th birthday. Meanwhile, Republican Nick Zoller is not running in the special election because he doesn’t turn the constitutionally required 25 until October.

If elected, Sink wouldn’t be the oldest freshman in recent history. California Democratic Reps. Gloria Negrete McLeod and Alan Lowenthal were elected in 2012 at 71 years of age. Rep. Paul Cook, R-Calif., was 69 when elected that cycle and Rep. Rick Nolan, D-Minn., was elected at 68 and sworn in at 69. He also served in the House from 1975 to 1981.

Going back a few more cycles, Alabama’s Parker Griffith, Idaho’s Walt Minnick, and Arizona’s Harry Mitchell were elected at 66 years old. Michigan’s Joe Schwarz was 67 in 2004 when he won. And Florida’s Frederica S. Wilson was 68 in 2010.

The obvious question when putting together a list like this is, what qualifies as “old”? For fear of my continued employment, I’ve chosen to use Stu Rothenberg’s age as a rough measure of what constitutes old. I’ll leave it to you to figure out how old he is.

No matter where we set the age bar, I’m pretty sure Pennsylvania Democrat John Hugya qualifies. The 79-year-old former congressional aide and retired colonel is challenging GOP Rep. Keith Rothfus in the 12th District.

But if Edwin Edwards decides to run in Louisiana’s 6th District, it’s likely he will hold the title for oldest congressional candidate of the cycle. The 86-year-old Democrat was first elected to Congress in 1964 and served as governor in three different decades. He is mentioned as a potential candidate in the open seat left by Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-La., who is running for Senate.

In eastern Pennsylvania, Democrat Marjorie Margolies is attempting a congressional comeback at 71 years old. She previously served one term in the House in the mid-1990s and is now running in the open 13th District being vacated by Rep. Allyson Y. Schwartz, D-Pa.

Democrats are optimistic about their chances in Arkansas’ 4th District, where former Federal Emergency Management Agency Director James Lee Witt is running for the open seat. Witt just turned 70 on Monday.

Former state Rep. Pam Byrnes, 66, is the likely Democratic nominee against GOP Rep. Tim Walberg in Michigan’s 7th District. And former Kalkaska County Sheriff Jerry Cannon, 65, is challenging incumbent Dan Benishek in the state’s 1st District, but may not quite qualify as old under my self-imposed standards. Georgia Republican Bob Barr, 65, doesn’t quite make the cut as well.

Setting the bar for “young” candidates is difficult, too. I wish I could use my own age, but unfortunately, I don’t think I’m anywhere close to young anymore, despite my penchant for listening to the same music that I did in college.

Since he still isn’t old enough to serve, Zoller probably takes the award for youngest congressional candidate of the cycle. But there are a number of others whose parents and grandparents are younger than Edwin Edwards.

Democrat Sean Eldridge, 27, is running in New York’s 19th District against Rep. Chris Gibson in what could be the most expensive congressional race in the country, due to its overlap with the New York City media market. Further upstate, Republican Elise Stefanik, 29, is challenging Democratic Rep. Bill Owens in the 21st District.

In Iowa, Democrat Jim Mowrer, 27, launched a long-shot bid against polarizing GOP Rep. Steve King in the 4th District. And in the 1st District, 27-year-old state Rep. Anesa Kajtazovic is one of a handful of Democrats running to win Rep. Bruce Braley’s open seat. In 2010, she became the youngest woman ever elected to the Iowa Legislature.

In New Hampshire, state Rep. Marilinda Garcia announced her candidacy in the 2nd District. The young Republican just turned 31 and is already in her fourth term in the New Hampshire House of Representatives. She faces competitive primary and general elections later this year.

Former congressional aide Igor Birman, 31, is running in California’s 7th District and must defeat at least two other Republicans before taking on Democratic Rep. Ami Bera in the general election.

New York Republican Lee Zeldin first ran for Congress in 2008 when he was 28 years old and lost to Democrat Timothy H. Bishop. Now at 33, he is running again in the 1st District, and doesn’t exactly qualify as young anymore.