by Alex Fitzsimmons
With Newt Gingrich’s departure from the Republican presidential race, the Mitt Romney Veepstakes are in full swing. But if history is a guide, we’ll have to wait a few more months before the presumptive nominee picks a running mate.
In the meantime, Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia has compiled a list of “VP Possibilities” ranked by tiers. Of those who made it on the list, six were state legislators and one wanted to be.
Marco Rubio was elected to the Florida House of Representatives from the 111th district in 2000. Just six years later, Rubio became the youngest House speaker in Florida history. In 2010, Rubio won a three-way race for U.S. Senate with almost 50 percent of the vote. Rubio has stated repeatedly that he has no interest in being vice president.
In 1992, Bob McDonnell was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates from the 84th District. McDonnell served as a delegate until 2006, when he was elected attorney general. The former Army officer was elected governor in 2010, but cannot run for re-election because of Virginia’s one-term rule. McDonnell is also the current chairman of the Republican Governors Association.
Tim Pawlenty served district 38B of the Minnesota House of Representatives from 1993 to 2003. Pawlenty became House majority leader in 1999, serving two terms in that position before running for governor in 2003. A two-term governor, Pawlenty ran for president in 2012, but dropped out of the race after a poor showing at the Ames Straw Poll.
Although not on Sabato’s list, Nikki Haley was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives from the 87th district in 2005. In 2010, Haley became the first female governor of South Carolina and second Indian-American governor in the country (Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal was the first). Like Rubio, Haley says she does not want to be VP, going so far as to say she would decline “any position” in a Romney administration.
From 1994 to 1998, Brian Sandoval served as a member of the Nevada Assembly for the 25th district. Sandoval left the Assembly in 1998 after being appointed to the Nevada Gaming Commission. One year later, at age 35, he became the youngest person ever to serve as chairman of the commission. Before becoming governor in 2010, Sandoval served stints as state attorney general and as a federal judge.
Cathy McMorris Rodgers was elected to the Washington House of Representatives from the 7th district in 1995 at age 24. After eight years in the statehouse, McMorris Rodgers was elected to Congress. Though Sabato puts her in the fourth and last tier, McMorris Rodgers is the highest ranking Republican woman in the U.S. House as vice chair of the House Republican Conference.
Chris Christie wasn’t a state legislator, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t try. Before becoming U.S. attorney and New Jersey governor, Christie ran unsuccessfully for the General Assembly in 1995. Things have gone better for the governor lately, as he’s now considered a top-tier candidate for vice president.
In case you were wondering, if any of the above contenders become vice president, he or she would be the 23rd former state legislator to serve in America’s second highest office. The last was John Nance Garner, who was FDR’s VP from 1933 to 1941 after serving in the Texas House of Representatives from 1898 to 1902.
NCSL has a full list of presidents and vice presidents who previously served in state legislatures.