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United States Senate elections, 1938: Map


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The U.S. Senate elections of 1938 occurred in the middle of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's second term. This occurred six years after the Democratic landslide in the 1932 election, and so the opposition Republicans gained six seats from the Democrats. However, the Democrats retained a commanding lead over the Republicans with more than two-thirds of the chamber.

A contemporary account cited a number of reasons for the losses suffered by the Democrats. The first was the Recession of 1937, which had continued into the first half of 1938, and which had arguably weakened public confidence in the administration's New Deal economic policies. Controversy over the Judiciary Reorganization Bill of 1937 (Roosevelt's "court-packing" plan) was also a major factor. There were, in addition, strains between the more liberal New Deal supporters and the conservative wing of the Democratic party centered in the Southern states. These strains were exacerbated by an effort led by President Roosevelt to target certain conservative senators for defeat in Democratic primaries, including Walter George of Georgia, Millard Tydings of Maryland and Ellison Smith of South Carolina, along with the chairman of the House Rules Committee, John J. O'Connor of New York. While a number of New Deal supporters won primary elections, such as Sen. Alben Barkley in Kentucky, who defeated future baseball commissioner Happy Chandler, Sen. James P. Pope of Idaho, a prominent New Deal supporter, lost his bid for re-nomination, as did California senator William McAdoo.

Given the high levels of Democratic success in the 1930, 1932, 1934 and 1936 elections, the Democrats did face a difficult position in defending a large number of seats, even without the pressures described above.

Overall, the Democrats would go on to lose 6 seats in the Senate, though with 69 seats, they retained a very strong majority position.

The Republicans took an open seat in New Jerseymarker, and defeated five Democratic incumbents:

Since McGill's defeat, Kansas has not elected a Democrat to the Senate, a trend continued with the 2008 re-election of Pat Roberts.

Senate contests in 1938

State Incumbent Party Status Opposing Candidates
Alabamamarker Lister Hill Democrat Re-elected, 86.4 - 13.6 J. M. Pennington (Republican)

Arizonamarker Carl Hayden Democrat Re-elected, 76.5 - 23.5 B. H. Clingan (Republican)

Arkansasmarker Hattie W. Caraway Democrat Re-elected, 89.6 - 10.4 C. D. Atkinson (Republican)

Californiamarker William G. McAdoo Democrat Defeated in primary: Democratic victory, 54.4 - 44.7 - 0.9 Sheridan Downey (Democrat)
Philip Bancroft (Republican)
Lillain Symes Clements (Socialist)

Coloradomarker Alva B. Adams Democrat Re-elected, 58.2 - 40.2 Archibald A. Lee (Republican)

Connecticutmarker Augustine Lonergan Democrat Defeated, 42.9 - 40.0 - 15.8 John A. Danaher (Republican)
Bellani Trombley (Socialist)

Floridamarker Claude Pepper Democrat Re-elected, 82.5 - 17.6 Thomas E. Swanson (Republican)

Georgiamarker Walter F. George Democrat Re-elected, unopposed
Idahomarker James P. Pope Democrat Defeated in primary: Democratic victory, 54.7 - 44.9 D. Worth Clark (Democrat)
Donald A.

Callahan (Republican)

Illinoismarker William H. Dieterich Democrat Retired: Democratic victory, 51.3 - 48.3 Scott W. Lucas (Democrat)
Richard J.

Lyons (Republican)

Indianamarker Frederick Van Nuys Democrat Re-elected, 49.8 - 49.5 - 0.4 - 0.1 - 0.1 Raymond E. Willis (Republican)
Herman L.

Seeger (Prohibition)
Louis E.

Roebuck (Socialist)
Miles Blansett (Communist)

Iowamarker Guy M. Gillette Democrat Re-elected, 49.7 - 49.4 Lester J. Dickinson (Republican)

Kansasmarker George McGill Democrat Defeated, 56.2 - 43.8 Clyde M. Reed (Republican)

Kentuckymarker Alben W. Barkley Democrat Re-elected, 62.0 - 38.0 John P. Haswell (Republican)

Louisianamarker John H. Overton Democrat Re-elected, 99.8
Marylandmarker Millard E. Tydings Democrat Re-elected, 68.3 - 29.3 Oscar Lesser (Republican)

Missourimarker Bennett Champ Clark Democrat Re-elected, 60.7 - 39.2 Harry S. Caulfield (Republican)

Nevadamarker Patrick A. McCarran Democrat Re-elected, 59.0 - 41.0 Tasker L. Oddie (Republican)

New Hampshiremarker Fred H. Brown Democrat Defeated, 54.2 - 45.8 Charles W. Tobey (Republican)

New Jerseymarker1 John G. Milton Democrat Retired: Republican victory, 53.0 - 45.7 W. Warren Barbour (Republican)
William H.


Ely (Democrat)

New Yorkmarker2 Royal S. Copeland Democrat Deceased: Democratic victory, 53.6 - 45.8 James M. Mead (Democrat)
Edward F.

Corsi (Republican)

New Yorkmarker Robert F. Wagner Democrat Re-elected, 54.5 - 45.0 John L. O'Brian (Republican)

North Carolinamarker Robert R. Reynolds Democrat Re-elected, 63.8 - 36.2 Charles A. Jonas (Republican)

North Dakotamarker Gerald P. Nye Republican Re-elected, 50.1 - 42.6 - 7.3 William Langer (Independent)


Nygard (Democrat)

Ohiomarker Robert J. Bulkley Democrat Defeated, 53.6 - 46.4 Robert A. Taft (Republican)

Oklahomamarker Elmer Thomas Democrat Re-elected, 65.4 - 33.9 Harry G. Glasser (Republican)

Oregonmarker Alexander G. Barry Republican Retired: Republican victory, 54.9 - 45.1 Rufus C. Holman (Republican)
Willis Mahoney (Democrat)

Pennsylvaniamarker James J. Davis Republican Re-elected, 54.7 - 44.4 George H. Earle (Democrat)

South Carolinamarker Ellison D. Smith Democrat Re-elected, unopposed
South Dakotamarker Gladys Pyle Republican Retired: Republican victory, 52.5 - 47.5 Chandler Gurney (Republican)
Tom Berry (Democrat)

Tennesseemarker3 George L. Berry Democrat Defeated in primary: Democratic victory, 70.5 - 26.2 A. Tom Stewart (Democrat)
Harley G.

Fowler (Republican)

Utahmarker Elbert D. Thomas Democrat Re-elected, 55.8 - 44.2 Franklin S. Harris (Republican)

Vermontmarker Ernest W. Gibson Republican Re-elected, 65.7 - 34.3 John McGrath (Democrat)

Washingtonmarker Homer T. Bone Democrat Re-elected, 62.6 - 37.1 - 0.3 Ewing D. Colvin (Republican)
Eugene Solie (Socialist Labor)
Wisconsinmarker F. Ryan Duffy Democrat Defeated, 47.7 - 26.6 - 24.7 Alexander Wiley (Republican)
Herman L.

Ekern (Progressive)

1 special election held due to resignation of Arthur H. Moore (D-NJ)

2 special election held due to death of Royal S. Copeland (D-NY)

3 special election held due to death of Nathan L. Bachman (D-TN)

Senate composition before and after elections

75th Congress Senate Composition   76th Congress Senate Composition
Color Key:   = Republican   = Democratic   = Independent   = Progressive   = Farmer-Labor

See also


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