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The incumbent is the current holder of an office or position, usually in relation to an election. For example, in an election for president, the incumbent is the person holding or acting in the office of president before the election, whether seeking re-election or not. In some situations, there may not be an incumbent at time of an election for that office or position (for example, when a new electoral division is created), in which case the office or position is regarded as vacant or open. In the United States, an election without an incumbent is referred to as an open seat or open contest.
The word "incumbent" is derived from the Latin verb incumbere, literally meaning "to lean or lay upon" with the present participle stem incumbent-, "leaning a variant of encumber,while encumber is derived from the root cumber, most appropriately defined: "To occupy obstructively or inconveniently; to block fill up with what hinders freedom of motion or action; to burden, load."
In general, an incumbent has a political advantage over challengers at elections. Except when the timing of elections is determined by a constitution or by legislation, the incumbent may have the right to determine the date of an election.
For most political offices, the incumbent often has more name recognition due to their previous work in the office. Incumbents also have easier access to campaign finance, as well as government resources (such as the franking privilege) that can be indirectly used to boost the incumbent's re-election campaign.
In the United States, an election (especially for a single-member constituency in a legislature) in which an incumbent is not seeking re-election is often called an open seat; because of the lack of incumbency advantage, these are often amongst the most hotly contested races in any election.[ citation needed ] Also, an open contest is created when the term of office is limited, as in the case of terms of the U.S. president being restricted to two four-year terms, and the incumbent is prohibited from recontesting.
When newcomers look to fill an open office, voters tend to compare and contrast the candidates' qualifications, positions on political issues, and personal characteristics in a relatively straightforward way. Elections featuring an incumbent, on the other hand, are, as Guy Molyneux puts it, "fundamentally a referendum on the incumbent."Voters will first grapple with the record of the incumbent. Only if they decide to "fire" the incumbent do they begin to evaluate whether each of the challengers is an acceptable alternative.
A 2017 study in the British Journal of Political Science argues that the incumbency advantage stems from the fact that voters evaluate the incumbent's ideology individually whereas they assume that any challenger shares his party's ideology.This means that the incumbency advantage gets more significant as political polarization increases. A 2017 study in the Journal of Politics found that incumbents have "a far larger advantage" in on-cycle elections than in off-cycle elections.
In relation to business operations and competition, an incumbent supplier is usually the supplier who currently supplies the needs of a customer and therefore has an advantageous position in relation to maintaining this role or agreeing a new contract in comparison with competing businesses.
Political analysts in the United States and United Kingdom have noted the existence of a sophomore surge (not known as such in the United Kingdom) in which first term representatives see an increase in votes in their first election. This phenomenon is said to bring an advantage of up to 10% for first term representatives, which increases the incumbency advantage.
However, there exist scenarios in which the incumbency factor itself leads to the downfall of the incumbent. Popularly known as the anti-incumbency factor, situations of this kind occur when the incumbent has proven themself not worthy of office during his tenure and the challengers demonstrate this to the voters. An anti-incumbency factor can also be responsible for bringing down incumbents who have been in office for many successive terms despite performance indicators, simply because the voters are convinced by the challengers of a need for change. It is also argued that the holders of extensively powerful offices are subject to immense pressure which leaves them politically impotent and unable to command enough public confidence for re-election; such is the case, for example, with the Presidency of France.Voters who experience the negative economic shock of a loss of income are less likely to vote for an incumbent candidate than those who have not experienced such a shock.
Nick Panagakis, a pollster, coined what he dubbed the incumbent rule in 1989—that any voter who claims to be undecided towards the end of the election will probably end up voting for a challenger.
In France, the phenomenon is known by the catchphrase "Sortez les sortants" (get out the outgoing [representatives]!) which was the slogan of the Poujadist movement in the 1956 French legislative election.
The Ceann Comhairle is the chairperson of Dáil Éireann, the lower house of the Oireachtas (parliament) of Ireland. The person who holds the position is elected by members of the Dáil from among their number in the first session after each general election. The Ceann Comhairle since 10 March 2016 has been Seán Ó Fearghaíl, Fianna Fáil TD. The Leas-Cheann Comhairle since 23 July 2020 has been Catherine Connolly, Independent TD.
The 1994 United States Senate elections held November 8, 1994 in which the Republican Party took control of the Senate from the Democrats. Like for most other midterm elections, the opposition, this time being the Republicans, held the traditional advantage. The congressional Republicans campaigned against the early presidency of Bill Clinton, including his unsuccessful health care plan. The Republicans successfully defended all of their seats and won eight from the Democrats by defeating the incumbent Senators Harris Wofford (Pennsylvania) and Jim Sasser (Tennessee), in addition to picking up six open seats in Arizona, Maine, Michigan, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. Notably, since Sasser's defeat coincided with a Republican victory in the special election to replace Al Gore, Tennessee's Senate delegation switched from entirely Democratic to entirely Republican in a single election. That would not happen again until 2021, when the Democrats flipped Georgia's delegation in the state's regularly-scheduled and special Senate elections.
The 2006 United States Senate elections were held on November 7, 2006, with all 33 Class 1 Senate seats being contested. The term of office for those elected in 2006 ran from January 3, 2007, to January 3, 2013. Prior to the election, the Republican Party controlled 55 of the 100 Senate seats.
Congressional stagnation is an American political theory that attempts to explain the high rate of incumbency re-election to the United States House of Representatives. In recent years this rate has been well over 90 per cent, with rarely more than 5-10 incumbents losing their House seats every election cycle. The theory has existed since the 1970s, when political commentators were beginning to notice the trend, with political science author and professor David Mayhew first writing about the "vanishing marginals" theory in 1974.
In politics, name recognition is the ability a voter has to identify a candidate's name due to a certain amount of previous exposure through various campaigning methods. It can be described as the awareness voters have about specific candidates resulting from various forms of campaign advertising. Some of the advertising methods used by candidates running for various offices are creating posters, making yard signs, bumper stickers and attempting to get media exposure, are a few examples of how they achieve this. Though candidates can achieve high name recognition and exposure, this does not necessarily mean that the average voter has a good understanding of their ideologies, positions and stances on political issues.
The 2004 United States Senate election in South Dakota was held on November 2, 2004. Incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator and Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle ran for re-election to a fourth term, but was narrowly defeated by Republican John Thune.
The 1998 United States Senate election in Nevada was held on November 3, 1998. Incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator Harry Reid won re-election to a third term. By a margin of less than 0.1%, this election was the closest race of the 1998 Senate election cycle.
The New York City mayoral election of 1997 occurred on Tuesday November 4, 1997, with incumbent Republican mayor Rudy Giuliani soundly defeating Democratic Manhattan Borough President Ruth Messinger and several third-party candidates.
The 2004 United States elections were held on November 2. Republican President George W. Bush won re-election and Republicans retained control of Congress.
The Massachusetts general election, 2008 were held on November 4, 2008 throughout Massachusetts. Among the elections which took place were those for the office of President of the United States, John Kerry's seat in the Senate, all ten seats in the Massachusetts delegation to the House of Representatives, all eight seats in the Massachusetts Governor's Council, and all of the seats of the Massachusetts Senate and Massachusetts House of Representatives. There were also three ballot questions: to eliminate the commonwealth's income tax; to decriminalize possession of a small amount of marijuana; and to prohibit greyhound racing. Numerous local elections also took place throughout the state.
A resign-to-run law is a law that requires the current holder of an office to resign from that office before they can run for another office. This is distinct from a dual mandate prohibition, where a person has to resign from their old office to assume the new office, rather than to run for the new office. Resign-to-run laws exist in several jurisdictions, including five US states.
The strategy of assumed incumbency is based on a recognition of the value of incumbency in a political campaign. A high correlation between election and incumbency has been demonstrated in congressional races. The success rate of incumbent members of the U.S. House of Representatives seeking re-election averaged 93.5 percent during the 1960s and 1970s. Statistically, the initial edge for the incumbent candidate is 2-4 percent of the vote.
The 1994 United States Senate election in Tennessee was held November 8, 1994. Incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator Jim Sasser ran for re-election to a fourth term but was defeated by Republican nominee Bill Frist.
The 1990 Michigan gubernatorial election was held on November 6, 1990, to elect the Governor and Lieutenant Governor of the state of Michigan. John Engler, a member of the Republican Party and State Senate majority leader, was elected over Democratic Party nominee, incumbent governor James Blanchard, who was seeking his third term.
The 2012 United States elections took place on November 6, 2012. Democratic President Barack Obama won election to a second term, though the Republican Party retained control of the House of Representatives. As of 2020, this is the most recent election cycle in which neither the presidency nor a chamber of Congress changed partisan control.
The mayoral election of 1989 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania was held on Tuesday, November 7, 1989. The incumbent mayor, Sophie Masloff of the Democratic Party chose to run for her first full term after having ascended the mayor's office from the position of President of City Council upon the death of long-time mayor Richard Caliguiri. While she met challengers in the Democratic primary, she was uncontested in the general election.
The 2010 congressional elections in New Mexico were held on November 2, 2010 and determined New Mexico's representation in the United States House of Representatives. Representatives are elected for two-year terms; the winners of the election served in the 111th Congress, which began on January 4, 2009 ended on January 3, 2011.
Incumbency is one of the most researched and debated topics within the realm of political science. However, the research regarding appointed U.S. senators and the incumbency advantage is not nearly as vast. In this research, the relationship between the number of months served as an appointed U.S. senator and the percentage of vote that appointed senator receives in their initial election is studied. It is hypothesized that the longer an appointee has served before an election, the higher percentage of vote that appointee will receive. To do this, data was compiled from the United States congressional archives consisting of appointed U.S. senators, the percentage of vote those appointed senators won in their election after their appointment, as well as the number of months served between their appointment and election. Discovering a relationship between months served and the vote percentages received will add to the scholarship of incumbency, and more specifically, how the discipline of political science views appointed U.S. senators.
United States gubernatorial elections were held on November 5, 2019, in Kentucky and Mississippi, and November 16, 2019, in Louisiana. These elections formed part of the 2019 United States elections. The last regular gubernatorial elections for all three states were in 2015. The Democrats had to defend an incumbent in Louisiana, while the Republicans had to defend an incumbent in Kentucky plus an open seat in Mississippi. Though all three seats up were in typically Republican states, the election cycle became unexpectedly competitive: Kentucky and Louisiana were seen as highly contested races; and Mississippi's race ultimately became closer than usual, despite being seen as favorable for the Republicans.
The 2024 United States Senate election in Arizona will be held on November 5, 2024, to elect a member of the United States Senate to represent the state of Arizona. Incumbent one-term Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema was elected in 2018 with 50% of the vote.
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