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Congressional Challengers: Candidate Quality in U.S. Elections to Congress

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Costas Panagopoulos, Professor of Political Science; Department Chair

In this book, Costas Panagopoulos examines patterns of candidate emergence in congressional elections over the past five decades—specifically, the quality of challengers who seek to unseat U.S. House incumbents, as measured by prior political experience. Panagopoulos demonstrates that fewer and fewer experienced challengers have tossed their hats into the ring since the early 1970s. Inexperienced candidates often face electoral challenges that are difficult to overcome. Looking at factors including campaign spending, district-level partisan composition, and institutional reforms such as term limits, Panagopoulos evaluates explanations and consequences for these developments over time. He points to important implications for the study of congressional elections and democracy in the United States, including reforms in recruitment and candidate selection strategies to heighten electoral competition and ultimately, to enhance democratic representation in Congress. For students and scholars of the U.S. Congress and elections, this book addresses public concern about representation as well.

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