Beautiful Members of Congress Face a Rough Future

Saturday, August 03, 2013
Connie Mack and Mary Bono Mack (photo: Maile Klein,

While being unattractive is generally thought to be unhelpful to a political career, it may be that being too attractive is no better. Over the past decade, nearly 40% of officeholders to make a well-known list of Washington’s “most beautiful” have been defeated, resigned in scandal, or retired from political office.


Since 2004, the political newspaper The Hill, which provides “insider” coverage of Congress and the federal government, has profiled 64 Representatives and Senators from 31 states on the bipartisan list of 33 Republicans and 31 Democrats, including Barack Obama (2005), John Boehner (2006), and Nancy Pelosi (2007).


Eric Ostermeier, writing for the University of Minnesota blog Smart Politics, analyzed the subsequent political careers of the 59 members of Congress (not including this year’s five inductees) who appeared on the list from 2004 through 2012, and found that 37% of them eventually lost reelection, failed in a campaign for higher office, resigned in scandal, or retired.


Most recently, during the 2012 elections, the Congressional careers of eight list alumni came to an end:


· Sen. Scott Brown (R-Massachusetts) lost reelection to the Senate by 7.6%.


· Betty Sutton (D-Ohio) lost by a Congressional race by 4.4%.


· Hansen Clarke (D-Michigan) lost a nomination battle after redistricting.


· Nan Hayworth (D-New York) lost a Congressional race by 3.4%.


· Heath Shuler (D-North Carolina) resigned his seat, which was taken by a Republican.


· Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-Illinois) resigned under an ethics cloud that eventually led to an indictment for violating campaign finance laws.


· Mary Bono Mack (R-California) lost a Congressional race by 5.9%.


· Connie Mack (R-Florida), who was married to Bono Mack, lost a Senate race by 13.0%.


The Macks, by the way, announced their divorce on May 24, 2013, less than six months after losing election bids.


Overall, of the 59 members of Congress named to “Most Beautiful” list between 2004 and 2012, 22 are no longer around: 10 lost re-election bids, 5 were defeated seeking higher office, 2 resigned in scandal, and 5 retired or did not seek reelection.


That means just 37 are still holding a federal political office, including 6 who have done quite well for themselves by ascending to higher office: Mary Fallin, Chuck Hagel, Martin Heinrich, John McHugh, Barack Obama, and Mark Udall.


In light of that history, the five first-term members of Congress on this year’s “50 Most Beautiful” list—Republican Senators Jeff Flake (Arizona) and Tim Scott (South Carolina) and Democratic Representatives Tulsi Gabbard (Hawai’i), Beto O'Rourke (Texas), and Frederica Wilson (Florida)—might want to make history by asking for a recount in a vote they won.  

-Matt Bewig


To Learn More:

It’s Tough Being Beautiful: Falling Down The Hill (by Eric Ostermeier, Smart Politics)


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