Campaign War Chests and Challenger Emergence in State Legislative Elections

By Hogan, Robert E. | Political Research Quarterly, December 2001 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Campaign War Chests and Challenger Emergence in State Legislative Elections


Hogan, Robert E., Political Research Quarterly


Recent studies examining the role of money in state legislative campaigns focus on questions related to the amounts raised, the sources of the funds, and the effects of spending on election outcomes. Little attention, however, has been given to the possible impact of money on other aspects of the electoral process-namely candidacy decisions. Political practitioners often assert that money has an important influence when incumbents collect large campaign treasuries or "war chests" for the purpose of warding off potential challengers. While several studies address the validity of this proposition in the congressional setting, few have examined it closely in state legislative races. This study considers this possibility in an analysis of incumbent funding in primary and general elections in eight states. Findings indicate that incumbents often amass war chests and these sums negatively impact challenger emergence; however, this effect is partially mitigated by legislative professionalism. The dampening effect of campaign treasuries is found to be more potent in states having the least professional legislatures.

"If you look like a 900-pound gorilla, people won't want to take you on."1

Money plays a central role in modern elections. Studies in recent years have addressed such questions as how much is raised, where it comes from, how it is spent, and most importantly, what effect it has on election outcomes. This study continues this line of inquiry but looks at the influence of money from a slightly different perspective. The focus here is not so much on how spending affects election outcomes, but instead is on how the potential to spend by a particular group of candidates influences candidacy decisions of others. Specifically, the analysis examines the possible dampening effect of incumbent campaign treasuries commonly referred to as "war chests."

It has become accepted wisdom by many political practitioners that vulnerable incumbents will attempt to raise funds far in advance of an election in an effort to deter opponents from entering the race. By having a sizable campaign treasury on hand, incumbents hope to send a signal to potential challengers that they too will have to raise a similarly large amount of money to be competitive. Two major questions surrounding this topic will be addressed: Do incumbents collect large war chests? And, if so, are these sums effective deterrents to challengers? In other words, does the size of an incumbent's war chest influence the probability that a challenger will emerge in primary and general elections? Using data from state legislative races, the analysis will determine if such effects exist, and under what conditions these effects are most pronounced.

INCUMBENCY AND COMPETITION IN ELECTIONS

Questions concerning contestation and competition generally revolve around issues of incumbency Studies consistently show that incumbents have enormous advantages in both congressional (Cover 1977; Erikson 1971; Ferejohn 1977; Jacobson 1987; Mayhew 1974) and state legislative races (Holbrook and Tidmarch 1991; Jewell and Breaux 1988, 1991). Scholarly attention has therefore centered on understanding the source of this incumbency advantage. A variety of explanations point to such factors as: perquisites of office that allow frequent contact with voters (e.g., Cain, Ferejohn, and Fiorina 1987); the ability to satisfy constituents' policy concerns (e.g., McAdams and Johannes 1988); and efforts to bring federal dollars and projects into the district (e.g., Fiorina 1989; Parker and Parker 1985; Stein and Bickers 1995).

Other research, however, is concerned with the campaign-related benefits enjoyed by incumbents. For example, various studies point to the general fundraising advantages that incumbents hold over challengers (Alexander 1992; Cassie and Breaux 1998; Herrnson 2000; Magleby and Nelson 1990; Sorauf 1992). While there is agreement among political scientists that funding disparities benefit incumbents, there is much less agreement as to the causal mechanisms which bring this about.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Campaign War Chests and Challenger Emergence in State Legislative Elections
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?