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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.
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 himself 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.
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.
Elections in the United States are held for government officials at the federal, state, and local levels. At the federal level, the nation's head of state, the president, is elected indirectly by the people of each state, through an Electoral College. Today, these electors almost always vote with the popular vote of their state. All members of the federal legislature, the Congress, are directly elected by the people of each state. There are many elected offices at state level, each state having at least an elective governor and legislature. There are also elected offices at the local level, in counties, cities, towns, townships, boroughs, and villages; as well as for special districts and school districts which may transcend county and municipal boundaries. According to a study by political scientist Jennifer Lawless, there were 519,682 elected officials in the United States as of 2012.
The 1994 United States Senate elections were elections held November 8, 1994, in which the Republican Party was able to take control of the Senate from the Democrats. In a midterm election, the opposition Republicans held the traditional advantage. 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, defeating 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.
The 1986 United States Senate elections was an election for the United States Senate in the middle of Ronald Reagan's second presidential term. The Republicans had to defend an unusually large number of freshman Senate incumbents who had been elected on President Ronald Reagan's coattails in 1980. Democrats won a net of eight seats, defeating seven freshman incumbents, picking up two Republican-held open seats and regaining control of the Senate for the first time since January 1981. The party not controlling the presidency gained seats, as usually occurs in mid-term elections.
The 1976 United States Senate elections was an election for the United States Senate that coincided with Democratic Jimmy Carter's presidential election and the United States Bicentennial celebration. Although almost half of the seats decided in this election changed parties, Carter's narrow victory did not provide coattails for the Democrats, and the balance of the chamber remained the same.
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 Bradley effect is a theory concerning observed discrepancies between voter opinion polls and election outcomes in some United States government elections where a white candidate and a non-white candidate run against each other. The theory proposes that some voters who intend to vote for the white candidate would nonetheless tell pollsters that they are undecided or likely to vote for the non-white candidate. It was named after Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, an African-American who lost the 1982 California governor's race despite being ahead in voter polls going into the elections.
The 1888 South Carolina United States House of Representatives elections were held on November 6, 1888 to select seven Representatives for two-year terms from the state of South Carolina. All seven incumbents were initially reported as re-elected and the composition of the state delegation remained solely Democratic, however Thomas E. Miller successfully contested the result in the 7th congressional district, claiming voter suppression of black Republican votes.
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.
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 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.
Elections for state and federal offices for the 2010 election cycle in Connecticut were held on Tuesday, November 2, 2010. Any necessary primary elections for the Republican and Democratic parties were held on Tuesday, August 10, 2010.
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.
The 1988 United States Senate election in Pennsylvania was held on November 8, 1988. Incumbent Republican U.S. Senator John Heinz successfully sought re-election to another term, defeating Democratic nominee Joe Vignola.
United States gubernatorial elections were held on November 7, 2017 in two states: Virginia and New Jersey. These elections formed part of the 2017 United States elections. The last regular gubernatorial elections for these two states were in 2013. Both incumbents were term-limited, so both seats were open. Democrats held the governorship in Virginia and picked up the governorship of New Jersey. For the first time since 2008, Democrats won the total popular vote of the year's gubernatorial elections.
The 2015 Dallas municipal election was an election to determine the mayor in Dallas, Texas. The election day was May 9, 2015, and if a runoff election had been required, it would have been held on June 13, 2015. Incumbent Democratic Mayor Mike Rawlings ran and won re-election to a second term in office against challengers Marcos Ronquillo, an attorney, and write-in candidate Richard Sheridan, a retired engineer and anti-gay government activist.
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. Despite the fact that all three seats up were in typically Republican states, Kentucky and Louisiana were seen as competitive races and Mississippi was still seen as favorable for Republicans but a closer race than usual. Democrats were able to hold their seat in Louisiana and flip the governor's seat in Kentucky, while Republicans successfully kept the Mississippi governorship by winning the open seat. As a result, the Democrats gained a net of one seat, bringing the total number of Democratic governors to 24, while Republicans were reduced to 26 governors, continuing a streak of governor's seat gains by Democrats under Republican President Donald Trump that began in 2017. This is the first time since 2003 in which a party made a net gain of seats in this cycle of governorships, and the first time since 1991 that Kentucky and Louisiana elected candidates of the same party. Democrats also won the total popular vote for the year's gubernatorial elections for the third year in a row, and for the first time since 1991 in this cycle of governorships.
The 2015 presidential and parliamentary election was held in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville between 11 May and 25 May 2015.
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