The announcement today that Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisconsin) will retire after 42 years in Congress means that New Jersey Rep. Christopher Smith (R-Hamilton) could move up to third in seniority if he wins re-election next year.
Smith is currently 4th in seniority out of the 433 current House members. Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Kentucky), who took office on the same day as Smith on January 3, 1981, is 3rd because House members who get sworn in at the same time receive the seniority in alphabetical order.
The most senior member of the House is Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), who won an October 1973 special election.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland) follows Smith at number five. He was elected in a May 1981 special election.
The 66-year-old Smith is considerably younger that the congressmen who have more seniority: Young is 86 and Rogers is 81. Sensenbrenner is 76. He is also younger than five other members of the New Jersey House delegation.
Smith has already announced his bid for re-election in New Jersey’s 4th district
“I’ve never been more enthusiastic about a job in my life,” Smith told the New Jersey Globe in August. “I hope to have another decade here. I love it that much.”
At the end of his current term, Smith will tie the record set by Rep. Peter Rodino (R-Newark) as New Jersey’s longest-serving Member of Congress. He will break that record on January 3, 2021 if he is re-elected to his solidly Republican seat.
Rep. Frank Pallone (D-Long Branch) ranks 12th in seniority, just behind Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Pallone won a 1988 special election to fill the unexpired term of Rep. James Howard (D-Spring Lake Heights), who died in office. Pallone never got sworn in, since the House never returned to session after the general election, but he did get a seniority advantage over other House freshmen who took office in 1989.
Because seniority was awarded based on alphabetical order, Andy Kim is #384, Tom Malinowski is #389, Mikie Sherrill is #412 and Jeff Van Drew is #428.