What amounts to a wave election in the U.S. House?
We define a wave as the top fifth (20%) of elections from 1918-2016 in terms of losses for the incumbent president’s party.
Under this definition, the president’s party must lose 48 seats in the U.S. House for an election to qualify as a wave. There were 11 wave elections between 1918 and 2016: four for Democrats and seven for Republicans.
A brief history of wave elections
U.S. House waves occur disproportionately in first presidential midterm elections. First presidential midterm elections made up 30% of all U.S. House elections from 1918-2016. But they also accounted for 54.5% of all House wave elections during that same time. That’s six of the 11 wave elections that happened in this period.
Second midterm elections, meanwhile, accounted for 18% of elections in that period and comprised 18.2% of U.S. House wave elections. Presidential elections accounted for 50% of elections and comprised 18.2% of U.S. House wave elections. Additionally, Franklin Roosevelt had a third midterm election in 1942, where a House wave occurred.
A historical look at gubernatorial wave elections
Eleven gubernatorial wave elections took place between 1918 and 2016: six for Democrats and five for Republicans.
The largest wave was in 1970, during President Richard Nixon’s (R) first term when Republicans lost 12 governorships.
The smallest gubernatorial waves came in 1982 and 2010, during the presidencies of Ronald Reagan (R) and Barack Obama (D), respectively. The president’s party lost seven governorships during these elections.
Pat Ryan and Marc Molinaro are running in the special election for New York’s 19th Congressional District
Pat Ryan (D) and Marc Molinaro (R) are running for the open U.S. House seat in NY-19. Former incumbent Antonio Delgado (D) resigned after Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) selected him as lieutenant governor. The winner of the special election will serve the rest of Delgado’s term that ends on January 3, 2023.
The special election is one of two elections for New York’s 19th district in 2022. The other is the regularly scheduled election on November 8.