Incumbency Part II

On occasion, I’ve had an elected official or two ask me “Have you heard if so-and-so is running against me?” or “Are they looking for a candidate to take me on?” Meaning they were concerned about a challenge from within the party.

My answer to that? “If they’re smart, they won’t.” Why? History is not on their side.

Okay, so my history in the process only goes back a little less than 20 years. But look at intra-party challenges in that time period. What have we seen at the state level?:

In 1986, for School and Lands, Tim Amdahl took on incumbent Sheldon Cotton and won, going on to win the general.

In 1990, Jim Schade took on his embattled boss Tim Amdahl for the same office, Jim lost at convention, and Tim went on to lose at the general.

In 1994, Micky Wenck took on incumbent Homer Harding for State Treasurer at the state GOP convention. Homer had been under siege by the Argus Leader for literally months, but he still pulled out a win at convention, only to lose at the general election.

One out of three are not good odds. And what had been the end result two out of the three times? The incumbent who was challenged, and pulled it out at convention, went on to lose the general election.

Sometimes the devil you know is better than the one you don’t. From the partisan viewpoint that I have, losing Homer Harding to Dick Butler was certainly not a plus in my book. It set the stage for nearly 8 years of the administration and the legislature fighting with the state treasurer’s office

Frankly, I think Tim Amdahl first race is a bad example because I don’t think of it as typical. I think Tim had been campaigning for some time, and it was not a last minute effort as the other campaigns had been. But, still, I would not want to take those odds.

Anyone considering it has to ask themselves – “Is it really worth the risk?” As I illustrated below in the "power of cheese" incumbency is an extremely strong factor in elections. If you're going to attempt to take it on, you're in for an uphill battle. If you knock out your own party's incumbent, you're not only starting from scratch - you might be that much farther behind, because you're against another party, AND you probably don't have your own party's full base.

Right now, we're a year out from the primaries and conventions, and ALREADY the rumor mill is starting to churn. It will be interesting to find out what solidifies into butter a year from now.


Todd D. Epp said…
PP, great incumbency series. I feel like I'm getting free graduate school credits in politics!

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