Capitol Words: Representin’


The new and improved Capitol Words provides a lot of opportunities for interesting research. One of the first things that I wondered was which lawmakers are the best promoters of their state or district (which ones are “representin'”). Since congressmen are supposed to be in Washington representing their home state or district, they ought to be constantly referring to that state/district.

My initial assumption going into the research was that the most home-state promotional lawmakers would hail from small provincial, self-involved states like Alaska. These initial hunches only really thought about these states being the small ones that needed extra-special promotion in Congress. Of course, I forgot that large states tend to be the most self-involved.

The Lone Star state takes the top two posts in the top ten most home-state promotional lawmakers:

Poe, Ted R-TX-02 576 (Texas)
Burgess, Michael R-TX-26 454 (Texas)
Latham, Tom R-IA-04 419 (Iowa)
Murkowski, Lisa R-AK-SEN 406 (Alaska)
Landrieu, Mary D-LA-SEN 301 (Louisiana)
Boxer, Barbara D-CA-SEN 299 (California)
Bonner, Jo R-AL-01 270 (Alabama)
Visclosky, Pete D-IN-01 229 (Indiana)
Barrasso, John R-WY-SEN 215 (Wyoming)
Braley, Bruce D-IA-01 189 (Iowa)

In looking at the states themselves, no single trend comes out, but rather a number of factors. Texas and California are the two largest states in the nation, so it comes as no surprise to see their representatives speaking about their state. Alaska and Wyoming are extraction industry states with a lot of federally controlled land, so their representatives are likely to be entrusted by state residents to push the state’s interests to the federal government. Louisiana representatives are likely to be referring to their state a lot after Hurricane Katrina necessitated large federal monies to be spent in the state. Iowa and Indiana are both heavily reliant on federal farm subsidies. The only state I can’t explain is Alabama.

These are all explanations given in terms of the federal government’s relations to each state, and, as seen, there is no single overriding connection for all of them. However, all of the individual lawmakers do have a commonality. None of these lawmakers, save for Sen. Barbara Boxer, hold any position of authority on any issue outside of their state’s interests. Poe, Burgess, Latham, and Bonner are either back benchers or do not have enough seniority to hold an important position. Braley and Barrasso are freshmen trying to cement their status as home state representatives. Visclosky’s main interests involve securing earmarks for his Indiana congressional district. Landrieu, Murkowski, and even Boxer, are all provincial creatures of their respective states, with Landrieu and Murkowski coming from politically powerful families. This is the true tie that binds.

In total, 101 lawmakers spoke the name of their state more than any other word over the past year. That’s almost one-fifth of Congress. Which states had the highest number of home-state promoting lawmakers?

1. Michigan – 7 (Reps. Kilpatrick, Knollenberg, Miller, Rogers, Stupak, Upton, Walberg)

2. New York – 7 (Reps. Crowley, King, Kuhl, Maloney, McHugh, Towns, Weiner)

3. Texas – 6 (Reps. Burgess, Cuellar, Johnson, Marchant, Ortiz, Poe)

4. Florida – 5 (Reps. Mack, Mahoney, Miller and Sen. Martinez)

5. Iowa – 4 (Reps. Boswell, Braley, Latham, Loebsack)

6. North Carolina – 4 (Reps. Butterfield, Etheridge, McIntyre, Shuler)

7. Ohio – 4 (Reps. Hobson, Pryce, Regula, Tiberi)

While Michigan and New York win the prize here, Iowa gets special mention. Their entire House delegation used the word “Iowa” more than any other word over the past year. What pride!

There are a lot more nuggets of information like this in Capitol Words. Hopefully, you’ll help us dig it out.