United States Senate election in New Hampshire, 1974

United States Senate election in New Hampshire, 1974
New Hampshire
November 5, 1974

Nominee John A. Durkin Louis C. Wyman
Party Democratic Republican

Senator before election

Norris Cotton

Elected Senator

John A. Durkin

The 1974 Election for United States Senator in New Hampshire, held on November 5, 1974, resulted in the longest contested election for the U.S. Congress in United States history.


In 1973, then incumbent Senator Norris Cotton announced he would not seek reelection. Republican strategists admitted that it would be tough for their party to hold on to the seat.[1]

The campaign of 1974, pitted Democrat John A. Durkin, who had served as New Hampshire's Insurance Commissioner, and as Attorney General, against the conservative, widely known Republican member of the United States House of Representatives from New Hampshire's 1st congressional district, Louis C. Wyman. As Wyman was the more experienced politician, he was predicted by many to win handily.[2]

Election Day

Wyman won with a margin of just 355 votes.

First recount

Durkin immediately demanded a recount. The recount, completed November 27, 1974, declared Durkin the winner by a margin of 10 votes. Republican Governor Meldrim Thomson, Jr. awarded Durkin a provisional certificate of election.

Second recount

Wyman promptly appealed to the New Hampshire State Ballot Law Commission. Durkin tried to defeat the appeal through legal maneuvers that eventually involved all levels of the New Hampshire court. Durkin's attorney also sought an injunction in Federal court to send the matter directly to the U.S. Senate for arbitration, but on December 18, a Federal district court denied the request.

The state ballot commission, therefore, conducted its own partial recount, and announced on December 24, 1974, that Wyman had won by just two votes. Governor Thomson rescinded Durkin’s certificate, and awarded a new credential to Wyman.

Cotton resigned the Senate seat on December 31, 1974, and Thomson appointed Wyman to fill the remainder of the term, which would expire on January 3, 1975.

New Hampshire United States Senate Election, 1974: Second Recount
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Louis Wyman 110,926 49.6618
Democratic John A. Durkin 110,924 49.6609
American Independent Carmen C. Chimento 1,513 0.68
Plurality 2 0.0009
Turnout 223,363

Election contested in U.S. Senate

As a last option, Durkin petitioned the Senate, which had a 60-vote Democratic majority, to review the case, based on the Constitutional provision that each house of Congress is the final arbiter of elections to that body.

On January 13, 1975, the day before the new Congress convened, the Senate Rules Committee tried unsuccessfully to resolve the matter. Composed of five Democrats and three Republicans, the Rules Committee deadlocked 4–4 on a proposal to seat Wyman pending further review. Alabama Democrat James Allen voted with the Republicans on grounds that Wyman had presented proper credentials.

The full Senate took up the case on January 14, with Wyman and Durkin seated at separate tables at the rear of the chamber. Soon, the matter was returned to the Rules Committee, which created a special staff panel to examine 3,500 questionable ballots that had been shipped to Washington. Following this review, the Rules Committee sent a report of 35 disputed points in the election to the full Senate, which spent the next six weeks debating the issue, but resolved only one of the 35 points in dispute. Republicans successfully filibustered the seating of Durkin.[2]

Facing deadlock with the August recess approaching, the Washington Post ran an editorial on July 28 charging that it would be "incredible" if the Senate were to “go on vacation for a month without settling the New Hampshire Senate election case.” The Post suggested that Wyman and Durkin themselves should try to reach some agreement to settle the matter. Following up on the suggestion, Louis Wyman wrote to Durkin that day, urging him to support a new, special election. Durkin initially refused, but then on July 29, reversed his earlier position, and announced to a New Hampshire television audience his intention to agree to the new election.[3] The next morning, July 30, he reported this change to the Democratic leadership, thus relieving the Senate from further deliberations on the topic.

Later that same day, the Senate voted 71–21 to declare the seat vacant as of August 8. Governor Thomson again appointed former Senator Cotton to hold the seat temporarily. New Hampshire then arranged to hold a special election.

Special election

The special election was held on September 16, 1975. Widespread attention in the media resulted in a record-breaking turnout, which gave the election to Durkin by a 27,000-vote margin.[2][4]

United States Senate Special Election in New Hampshire, 1975
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic John A. Durkin 140,778 53.62
Republican Louis Wyman 113,007 43.04
American Independent Carmen C. Chimento 8,787 3.35
Majority 27,771 10.58
Turnout 262,572
Democratic gain from Republican

See also

Further reading


  1. Lydon, Christopher (December 17, 1973). "Republican Strategists See Major 1974 Election Losses for G.O.P.; Most Incredible'". The New York Times.
  2. 1 2 3 "Message from New Hampshire". Time. September 29, 1975.
  3. Wermiel, Stephen (July 30, 1975). "Durkin reverses, asks new N.H. vote". Boston Globe.
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