Legislators at Risk?

Elections serve as a check on power – public representatives have to face the voters from time to time, and the public gets to decide if they want to retain the official or not. Today’s Primary Election in Connecticut has the nation wondering if Sen. Joe Lieberman will secure nomination to another term. But how often to voters actually reject a sitting office holder? ICPR looked at Primary Elections in Illinois and found the answer: Not often.

Indeed, most often, sitting legislators seeking nomination for another term are not opposed in the primary. Our report on Primary Elections, All in the Family, found that even when they are opposed, they win more than three times out of four. Appointed legislators do even better, winning every time since 1998.

Perhaps these results aren’t so surprising. These are primary elections, after all, and the voters are all of the same party as the incumbent. But when we looked at General Elections, as we did last Winter, we found the same results: sitting legislators are rarely challenged, and win most of the time when they are challenged.

This week we release the second part of our study of election competitiveness. Look for the final part, looking at how often sitting legislators are turned away from another term, after the November general.