Charles S. Bullock III , Ronald Keith Gaddie,
and Anders Ferrington
When Experience Fails: The Experience Factor in Congressional Runoffs
Legislative Studies Quarterly
XXVI:31-43

Ambition theory identifies political experience as a major correlate of holding higher office. We explore the possibility that under certain conditions, political experience may do little to promote election. Specifically, in runoff primaries experience may not promote a candidate’s prospects for nomination. When an experienced candidate, such as a former state legislator, fails to win a majority in the initial primary, it may indicate that any advantages derived from experience have been discounted by the electorate. The relationship between experience and runoff election success is explored using 87 U.S. House elections from 1982 through 1994. The evidence shows that in runoffs experienced candidates who led their primaries have no advantage, while the greater the experience of the primary runner-up, the more likely it is that the front-runner will be nominated.


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