My question:

When was the last time a special election candidate whose seat was vacated because of a Cabinet selection outperformed the previous time the House race on the ballot?

What makes this question relevant to current events:

I read online that someone claimed that the New Mexico special had a larger margin than the general House race.

It was the first time in DECADES where the margin in a House special to replace a cabinet member (+25) grew over the last general election margin for the seat (+16).

(It also narrowly beat the presidential margin but that isn't the subject of this question.) This is true. But I want to know about what it said that "it was the first time in decades where the margin ... grew ...".

  • The beggening of the post may confuse some users into thinking this belongs on skeptics, I’m going to try and edit it to make the question clearer, feel free to reject it or improve it if I mess something up or change your intent. Note: the edit is now implemented Commented Jun 3, 2021 at 2:24
  • Okay. I could see how you would think so Commented Jun 3, 2021 at 2:26

1 Answer 1



Interesting question. I did some research and found that this claim is true. The last time such a scenario where the winner of a special election, held to replace someone appointed to a job in a presidential administration outperformed that appointee, was in 1933.

For this research, I used FiveThirtyEight's Congressional Resignations dataset which lists all members of Congress who resigned between March 4, 1901 and January 15, 2018. I filtered the dataset to show only the representatives who resigned as a result of being appointed into a role in a presidential administration, which returned 58 instances. I then used Wikipedia and OurCampaigns to calculate the margin of both the scheduled and the following special election.

Between March 4, 1901 and January 15, 2018, there were only 3 instances where the winner of a special election, held to replace someone appointed to a job in a presidential administration, outperformed that appointee.

Scheduled →
Special Election
Seat Scheduled
Reason for Resignation Sources
1912 → 1913 WV-01 D +0.30 D +9.29 John W. Davis appointed
Solicitor General[1]
1918 → 1920 MO-03 D +5.96 D +7.16 Joshua Alexander appointed
Secretary of Commerce
1932 → 1933 AZ-AL D +42.93 D +56.65[2] Clinton Anderson appointed
Secretary of Agriculture

[1]not a member of the Cabinet

[2]second place finisher was from a minor / third party

  • 1
    Great reference!
    – Pete W
    Commented Jun 3, 2021 at 13:46

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