Honors Program Theses


Open Access Honors Program Thesis

First Advisor

C. Scott Peters


While campaigns for judicial elections in general have received more attention, relatively little research has been done regarding the differences in campaigning for open-seat and incumbent-challenger elections. Because they are the most common type of judicial election, incumbent-challenger races have been the focus of most research conducted thus far. Yet, open seat competitions are important as well. With the incumbent advantage absent in these elections, factors that would otherwise play only a minor role in determining who will be elected have the potential to be much more exaggerated than they do in incumbent-challenger races; consequently, it will be easier to examine the more subtle forces that are shaping judicial elections (Bond, Fleisher and Talbert 1997; Bonneau 2006). To date, researchers who have examined open-seat elections have focused on how features such as contestation, competition, candidate quality, the role of institutions, and the amount of money that candidates raise and spend affect these elections in comparison to incumbent-challenger elections. It is still unknown whether candidates in incumbent-challenger races have campaign strategies that are significantly different from candidates in open-seat elections, and the purpose of this paper is to fill the research gap regarding the differences between campaigning for open-seat and incumbentchallenger state supreme court elections. I expect that the strategies and tones of campaigns for open-seat elections will be quite distinct from those for incumbent-challenger races, particularly regarding candidates' likelihood of discussing their views on issues in addition to the prevalence of traditional (versus new-style) themes in websites and TV advertisements. This paper seeks to discover whether candidate type influences campaign style, and it is anticipated that this is the case.

Year of Submission



Department of Political Science

University Honors Designation

A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the designation University Honors


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Date Original


Object Description

1 PDF file (28 pages)