To Special-Election Victors, a Short Stay in Congress

Nathan L. Gonzales January 19, 2014 · 10:00 AM EST

Rep. Bill Owens’ retirement announcement brought back a flood of special-election memories. But one thing in particular stood out to me. For all the national attention that competitive special elections receive, winning candidates’ time in Washington is often relatively short.

Owens’ tenure, when he completes his term, is long compared to some of his special-election contemporaries. He was elected in a November 2009 special election and will leave office in January 2015. And even though Owens was facing a competitive race this year, he chose to go out on his own terms.

Others weren’t so lucky in their electoral fate or their time in office:

These examples aren’t terribly surprising but are a good reminder as to why special elections should be considered “special.” Victories in competitive special elections are often a result of circumstances at the time, not a result of political fundamentals.

So as we say goodbye to Owens, the winner of Florida’s 13th District special election has to be hoping that his or her victory will result in a longer tenure in Washington.