Party organizations and candidate characteristics in congressional primaries
Burroughs, Nathan Aaron
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In this dissertation I examine the influence of party organizations on candidates in congressional primaries. I concentrate on the magnitude of party influence and the differential effect of parties with respect to candidate background. Specifically, I test the degree to which candidates with non-political credentials for office (self-financers, celebrities, and members of political families) are more or less advantaged by the presence of institutionally weak parties. I also test hypotheses related to the effect of party institutionalization on candidates, political organizations, donors, and primary voters. Parties are analyzed both as autonomous actors and as rules-bearing structures. An analysis of commonly employed measures of party institutionalization suggests that there is no one indicator of party "strength",and raises questions about the use of surveys of executive directors and chairs of state parties. Instead, I employ a number of independent indicators of party institutionalization. Statistical analysis suggests that party institutionalization has only a modest effect on the process of candidate emergence, with a limited ability to reduce the number of primary candidates or encourage elected officials to run for the House. Environmental factors such as the presence of an incumbent and the partisan predisposition of the district play a dominant role. Consistent with previous work, candidates with experience in elected office are advantaged in fund-raising and winning votes. However, party organizations are active in congressional primaries, openly supporting candidates in the primary more often than any other organizational actor. Candidates who have received party support have more success in earning donations and votes than other candidates. Democratic and Republican primary dynamics display substantial differences. The two parties are more likely to attract candidates that resemble their party’s voter base, and there are distinctions in the influence of candidate background and party institutionalization on fund-raising and organizational support. Strong Democratic institutions appear to advantage elected officials and long-time party activists, while stronger Republican parties advantage candidates with elite backgrounds.
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