The NCSL Blog


By Molly Ramsdell

The 116th Congress will convene on Jan. 3, 2019 and several of the new class of U.S. Senators and Representatives are likely to be former state legislators.

Representative James Cormer (R-Kentucky)Representative Pramila Jayapa (D-WashingtonOver the past 14 years (since the 109th Congress), the number of state legislators in Congress has ranged between 48 and 51 percent, with 49 percent of current members being former state legislators.

As for the individual chambers during that same period, the Senate has seen a 12 percent increase in the number of former state legislators as its members, from 39 to 44, while the House saw a decline of 6.8 percent, from 235 to 219.

For the House, this includes Delegates for both Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands and the Resident Commissioner from Puerto Rico. The Resident Commissioner is a non-voting member of the House elected every four years by the voters in Puerto Rico. It is the only member of the House that serves a four-year term.

Looking closer at the 115th Congress, 48 states have at least one former state legislator serving in either the House or Senate. The two exceptions are Delaware and North Dakota; both of which, by the way, only have one House seat. In total, the 115th Congress (2017-2019) had 29 new members who were former state legislators:

In the Senate:

  • Maryland: Chris Van Hollen (D)
  • New Hampshire: Margaret Wood Hassan (D)

In the House:

  • Arizona: Andy Biggs (R), Debbie Lesko (R) and Tom O'Halleran (R)
  • California: Lou Correa (D) and Jimmy Gomez (D)
  • Florida: Charlies Crist (D), Matt Gaetz, (R), Al Lawson (D) and Darren Soto (D)
  • Indiana: Jim Banks (R)
  • Kentucky: James Comer (R)
  • Louisiana: Mike Johnson (R)
  • Maryland: Anthony Brown (D) and Jamie Raskin (D)
  • Nevada: Ruben Kihuen (D)
  • New York: Adriano Espaillat (D), John Faso (R) and Claudia Tenney (R)
  • Ohio: Troy Balderson (R)
  • Pennsylvania: Dwight Evans (D) and Lloyd Smucker (R)
  • Puerto Rico: Jenniffer Aydin González Colón (R)
  • South Carolina: Ralph Norman, Jr. (R)
  • Virginia: Tom Garrett (R), Donald McEachin (D) and Scott Taylor (R)
  • Washington: Pramila Jayapal (R)

What will the numbers be for the 116th Congress? I’ll report back next week after the election, but for now, I’ll stick to 48 to 51 percent … I’m not much of a gambler. A list of former state legislators serving in Congress is available.

Parting shot: Just under half (48.8 percent) of U.S. presidents served in colonial or state legislatures.

Molly Ramsdell is director of NCSL's Washington, D.C., office.

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About the NCSL Blog

This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.