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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The cost of running for office: How electoral campaign laws structure candidate entry in U.S. elections
by Dowling, Conor M., Ph.D., State University of New York at Binghamton, 2008, 229; 3338785
Abstract (Summary)

The lack of competition that plagues elections in the United States at all levels of government has been both widely lamented and widely studied. Given the strategic advantages electoral incumbents enjoy, it is not surprising that they are frequently able to skate through an election unopposed or with only token opposition. One aspect of the candidate emergence process that has been largely overlooked up to this point, however, are the effects certain electoral laws, such as ballot access requirements and public funding of candidates, have on candidate emergence. Following the “strategic politicians” model of candidate entry (Black 1972; Jacobson and Kernell [1981] 1983), I propose that such electoral laws are properly considered part of the cost (“C”) term in the standard decision-making calculus of potential candidates. Specifically, ballot access requirements add to the costs a potential candidate faces, while public funding of candidates has the ability to alleviate some of the costs associated with becoming a candidate. I use House and gubernatorial data to empirically test these, and other, claims in the dissertation.

I find that ballot access laws do limit candidate entry, but that they do not do so for all types of candidates. In particular, ballot access laws are more likely to have an effect on amateur (those who have not held previous elective office) candidate entry than they are experienced (those who have held previous elective office) candidate entry, especially in gubernatorial elections where experienced candidate entry is not influenced by ballot access laws in any fashion. I also find some differential effects between open seats and seats in which an incumbent is defending. I find that a greater number of experienced candidates contest open seat elections when public funding is available, but that public funding does not influence amateur candidate entry. Given these results, this dissertation should appeal to anyone interested in candidate entry and political ambition, candidate quality, and the costly nature of taking part in politics in the United States.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Krasno, Jonathan S.
School: State University of New York at Binghamton
Department: Political Science
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 69/12, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Political science
Keywords: Ballot access, Campaign laws, Candidate emergence, Candidates, Elections, Political ambition, Public funding
Publication Number: 3338785
ISBN: 978-0-549-93005-1
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