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Smith vs. Cormier, 1960

Time Magazine Cover: Smith vs. Cormier

It may sound like a prize fight, but this contest was a historic election between two contenders for a seat in the U.S. Senate. Democratic candidate Lucia Cormier, Maine state representative, challenged the popular Republican incumbent, Margaret Chase Smith. For the first time in Senate history, both major party candidates were women. In an era when female candidates were still unusual, the high-profile contest gained a good deal of chauvinistic press attention. Reporters predicted scenes of “hair-pulling” and “eye-scratching.” Ignored by such pundits was the fact that the two women were experienced legislators and longtime colleagues. Smith and Cormier ran strong campaigns that culminated in one of the first televised debates on November 6, 1960. Two days later, Smith won the so-called “Petticoat Race,” taking 62 percent of the vote.


The Write-in Candidate

Strom Thurmond

When the executive committee of the South Carolina Democratic Party appointed a state senator to run in the primary for a vacant U.S. Senate seat in 1954, former governor Strom Thurmond declared his intention to run as a write-in candidate. Thurmond won with 63 percent of the vote becoming the first person elected to the Senate as a write-in candidate in a general election.

A Narrow Victory

Key Pittman

In 1913 Key Pittman of Nevada won his Senate seat by an uncomfortably narrow margin, besting the next candidate by only 89 votes in the popular election. He won his seat by attracting only 7,942 votes overall, at that point the smallest number of votes by which a U.S. Senate candidate had ever gained office. Pittman went on to serve 27 years in the Senate.


The Biographical Directoy of the U.S. Congress

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