Determinants of Candidate Emergence in U.S. House Elections: An Exploratory Study
Legislative Studies Quarterly XXII:79-96

The difficulty with studying the challenger side of the incumbency effect-the unwillingness of potentially strong challengers to run against U.S. House incumbents-has been in identifying strong potential candidates who, in fact, decide not to run. We rely upon a sample of politically astute informants to identify potential candidates prior to the 1994 elections. Our survey of these potential candidates reveals three common characteristics: they had many of the attributes one would expect of strong House challengers, there was variance in what they stated was the likelihood of their running for the House in 1994, and they were most strongly influenced by what they perceived to be their chances of winning their party's nomination in their district. In addition, they understood that they would be much less likely to receive their party's nomination if they shared party affiliation with the incumbent, a finding that reinforces the incumbency effect. We also find that respondents who held elective office at the time of the survey were more likely to run, and that there is little evidence that personal factors related to the costs and benefits of running weigh heavily in the decision to run.