by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
There were 393 House members who sought reelection in 2016, and according to the University of Virginia Center for Politics, 380 of them won – a 97 percent success rate. The success rate was 98 percent for those who made it past their primaries.
The Senate experienced a slightly lower incumbency rate of 93 percent. Of the 29 senators who ran for another term in 2016, 27 of them won.
These rates have remained consistently high over time. The incumbency rate for the House, where Khanna serves, has averaged 93 percent since World War II. It has not dropped below 85 percent since at least 1964, according to the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), the organization that runs OpenSecrets.org.
“With wide name recognition, and usually an insurmountable advantage in campaign cash, House incumbents typically have little trouble holding onto their seats,” reads their website.
In the 2016 election cycle, House incumbents raised $1.6 million on average, according to the CRP, while challengers averaged $232,000.
Some political commentators have also suggested that gerrymandering – drawing district lines in such a way that favors one party – has contributed to the high incumbency rate in House races, although some political scientists dispute this theory.