Explaining Challenger Quality in Congressional Elections Academic Article uri icon


  • This study seeks to explain why some incumbents attract politically experienced, well-financed challengers while others do not. Using data from contested House races in 1980, we analyze the effects of four sets of variables including: (1) incumbents' policy and nonpolicy behavior (ideological discrepancy and use of “perks” for advertising and casework); (2) local partisan conditions (previous vote margin and the normal partisan vote in the district); (3) district diversity; and (4) the national tide. We find that both short-term and long-term partisan forces (previous vote and normal vote), national tides, and policymaking behavior (ideological discrepancy) significantly affect the probability of attracting politically experienced, well-financed challengers. District diversity and incumbents' use of “perks” available for advertising and casework, on the other hand, are not related to any indicator of challenger quality. © 1985, Southern Political Science Association. All rights reserved.

author list (cited authors)

  • Bond, J. R., Covington, C., & Fleisher, R.

citation count

  • 127

publication date

  • June 1985