Missing out on the Appalachian romp: Idaho only state to never hold a special election

With Republican Mark Sanford seeking a political rebirth in South Carolina’s special congressional election Tuesday comes the news that Idaho is the only state in the union to have never held such a mid-term contest.

Once again, Idaho is missing out on the entertainment. We’ve been spared the nostalgia about side trips from the Appalachian Trail to the mistress in Argentina. We’re bereft of jokes about Stephen Colbert and his sister, Elizabeth, who is running a close race against Sanford despite the handicap of being a Democrat.

Since statehood in 1890, not a single House vacancy has been filled by a special election, according to Eric Ostermeier at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs.

With just two seats in the House, Idaho has fewer chances than most states of a lawmaker passing away mid-term, leaving for the Senate or a member announcing — and following through — on an intention to resign.

Idaho went without one congressman for seven months after Democrat Thomas Coffin died on June 8, 1934.

Writes Ostermeier:  “A decade later, four-term Republican U.S. Representative Henry Dworshak resigned his House seat on November 5, 1946, having just been elected to the Senate (in a special election to that seat).

With less than two months remaining of his unexpired House term, no special election was held and the seat stayed vacant throughout the remainder of the 79th Congress.”

No. 2 on the list? Delaware, which last had a special election in 1900.

Dan Popkey came to Idaho in 1984 to work as a police reporter. Since 1987, he has covered politics and has reported on 25 sessions of the Legislature. Dan has a bachelor's in political science from Santa Clara University and a master's in journalism from Columbia University. He was a Congressional Fellow of the American Political Science Association and a Journalism Fellow at the University of Michigan. A former page in the U.S. House of Representatives, he graduated Capitol Page High School in 1976. In 2007, he led the Statesman’s coverage of the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news. In 2003, he won the Ted M. Natt First Amendment award from the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Association for coverage of University Place, the University of Idaho’s troubled real estate development in Boise. Dan helped start the community reading project "Big Read." He has two children in college and lives on the Boise Bench with an old gray cat.

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