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1978 United States 1982
United States Senate elections, 1980
35 seats in the United States Senate
November 2, 1980
Majority party Minority party
Howard Baker photo.jpg Robert Byrd official portrait.jpg
Leader Howard Baker Robert Byrd
Party Republican Democratic
Leader's seat Tennessee West Virginia
Last election 41 seats 58 seats
Seats won 53 46
Seat change +12 -12
1980 Senate election map.svg
     Republican holds

     Republican pickups      Democratic holds

Incumbent Majority Leader
Robert Byrd
Democratic

Majority Leader-elect
Howard Baker
Republican

The 1980 U.S. Senate elections coincided with Ronald Reagan's election to the Presidency. Reagan's large margin of victory over incumbent Jimmy Carter pulled in many Democratic voters and gave a huge boost to Republican senate candidates.

The Republicans gained a net of twelve seats from the Democrats, the largest swing since 1958, and gained control of the Senate, 53-46. Majority and minority leaders Robert Byrd and Howard Baker exchanged places. This marked the first time since 1954 that the Republican Party controlled one of the Houses of Congress.

Without losing any seats, the Republicans took open seats in Alabama, Alaska, and Florida, and defeated nine incumbents: Herman Talmadge (D-GA), Frank Church (D-ID), Birch E. Bayh II (D-IN), John Culver (D-IA), John A. Durkin (D-NH), Robert Morgan (D-NC), 1972 presidential nominee George S. McGovern (D-SD), Warren Magnuson (D-WA), and Gaylord Nelson (D-WI) (see Reagan's coattails).

Notable new senators included future Vice-President J. Danforth Quayle (R-IN). Alfonse M. D'Amato (R-NY) defeated incumbent liberal Republican icon Jacob Javits in a primary, demonstrating the ascendancy of conservative Republicans.

In 1982, Harrison A. Williams (D-NJ) resigned from the Senate rather than face a vote on his expulsion over the Abscam scandal. He was replaced by Republican Nicholas F. Brady. This is not reflected in the party totals.

Senate contests in 1980

A bolded state name indicates an article about that state's election.

State Incumbent Party Status Opposing candidate(s)
Alabama Donald W. Stewart Democratic Defeated in primary, Republican victory Jeremiah Denton (Republican) 50.2%
Jim Folsom, Jr. (Democratic) 47.1%
Alaska Mike Gravel Democratic Defeated in primary, Republican victory Frank Murkowski (Republican) 53.7%
Clark Gruening (Democratic) 45.9%
Arizona Barry Goldwater Republican Re-elected, 49.5% Bill Schulz (Democratic) 48.4%
Fred R. Easer (Libertarian) 1.4%
Lorenzo Torrez (People Over Politics) 0.4%
Josefina Otero (Socialist Workers) 0.4%
Arkansas Dale Bumpers Democratic Re-elected, 59.1% Bill Clark (Republican) 40.9%
California Alan Cranston Democratic Re-elected, 56.5% Paul Gann (Republican) 37.1%
David Bergland (Libertarian) 2.4%
David Wald (Peace & Freedom) 2.4%
Jim Griffin (American Ind.) 1.6%
Colorado Gary Hart Democratic Re-elected, 50.3% Mary E. Buchanan (Republican) 48.7%
Earl Higgerson (Statesman) 0.6%
Henry John Olshaw (Unaffiliated-American) 0.4%
Connecticut Abraham A. Ribicoff Democratic Retired, Democratic victory Chris Dodd (Democratic) 56.3%
James L. Buckley (Republican) 42.9%
Florida Richard Stone Democratic Defeated in primary, Republican victory Paula Hawkins (Republican) 51.7%
Bill Gunter (Democratic) 48.3%
Georgia Herman Talmadge Democratic Defeated, 49.1% Mack Mattingly (Republican) 50.9%
Hawaii Daniel Inouye Democratic Re-elected, 77.9% Cooper Brown (Republican) 18.4%
Idaho Frank Church Democratic Defeated, 48.8% Steve Symms (Republican) 49.7%
Illinois Adlai Stevenson III Democratic Retired, Democratic victory Alan J. Dixon (Democratic) 56.0%
Dave O'Neal (Republican) 42.5%
Indiana Birch Bayh Democratic Defeated, 46.2% Dan Quayle (Republican) 53.8%
Iowa John Culver Democratic Defeated, 45.5% Chuck Grassley (Republican) 53.5%
Kansas Bob Dole Republican Re-elected, 63.8% John Simpson (Democratic) 36.2%
Kentucky Wendell H. Ford Democratic Re-elected, 65.1% Mary L. Foust (Republican) 34.9%
Louisiana Russell B. Long Democratic Re-elected in primary
Maryland Charles Mathias, Jr. Republican Re-elected, 66.2% Edward T. Conroy (Democratic) 33.8%
Missouri Thomas Eagleton Democratic Re-elected, 52.0% Gene McNary (Republican) 47.7%
Martha Pettit (Socialist Workers) 0.3%
Nevada Paul Laxalt Republican Re-elected, 58.5% Mary Gojack (Democratic) 37.4%
New Hampshire John A. Durkin Democratic Defeated, 47.8% Warren Rudman (Republican) 52.1%
New York Jacob K. Javits Republican Defeated in primary, Republican victory Al D'Amato (Republican) 44.9%
Elizabeth Holtzman (Democratic) 43.5%
Jacob K. Javits (Liberal) 11.0%
North Carolina Robert Burren Morgan Democratic Defeated, 49.4% John Porter East (Republican) 50.0%
North Dakota Milton Young Republican Retired, Republican victory Mark Andrews (Republican) 70.3%
Kent Johanneson (Democratic) 29.0%
Ohio John Glenn Democratic Re-elected, 68.8% James E. Betts (Republican) 28.2%
Oklahoma Henry Bellmon Republican Retired, Republican victory Don Nickles (Republican) 53.5%
Andrew Coats (Democratic) 43.5%
Oregon Bob Packwood Republican Re-elected, 52.1% Ted Kulongoski (Democratic) 44.0%
Pennsylvania Richard Schweiker Republican Retired, Republican victory Arlen Specter (Republican) 50.5%
Pete Flaherty (Democratic) 48.0%
South Carolina Ernest Hollings Democratic Re-elected, 70.4% Marshall T. Mays (Republican) 29.6%
South Dakota George McGovern Democratic Defeated, 39.4% James Abdnor (Republican) 58.2%
Wayne Peterson (Independent) 2.4%
Utah Jake Garn Republican Re-elected, 73.6% Dan Berman (Democratic) 25.5%
Vermont Patrick Leahy Democratic Re-elected, 49.8% Stewart M. Ledbetter (Republican) 48.5%
Washington Warren G. Magnuson Democratic Defeated, 45.8% Slade Gorton (Republican) 54.2%
Wisconsin Gaylord Nelson Democratic Defeated, 48.3% Bob Kasten (Republican) 50.2%

Senate composition before and after elections

96th Congress Senate Composition   97th Congress Senate Composition
                                                                                                     
                                                                                                     
                                                                                                     
                                                                                                     
Color Key:   = Republican   = Democratic   = Independent

See also

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