In State Elections, It’s Still Hard to Beat a Rich Incumbent

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

While the talk continues about throwing out incumbents from Congress during the 2010 election, challengers will be hard-pressed to bring about change in state legislatures.

A review of state legislative races in 2008 by the National Institute on Money in State Politics shows incumbents won re-election 94% of the time, demonstrating just how powerful an advantage it is to be the office holder. When incumbents also enjoyed a fundraising advantage, the success rate went up to 96%.
Further aiding incumbents was the fact that many—about one-third—had no opponent to face. And even when there were two names on the ballot, only one a third of these races were truly competitive, meaning each side raised approximately the same amount of funds.
In the 2007-2008 election cycle, 15% of state races were open seats without an incumbent; in 7% of the races, a challenger defeated the incumbent; and in 78% of the races, the incumbent won reelection. The majority of races with open seats were in states with term limits.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
Competitiveness in 2007-2008 State Legislative Races (by Tyler Evilsizer, Follow the


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