Incumbents’ financial advantage + friendly redistricting = long odds for challengers

  Posted: 12:00 a.m. Saturday, March 8, 2014 BY GREG BLUESTEIN AND JAMES…

Georgia (Mar 11, 2014)  Posted: 12:00 a.m. Saturday, March 8, 2014

Publication

Link To Article

http://www.myajc.com/news/news/state-regional-govt-politics/incumbents-financial-advantage-friendly-redistrict/nd7xh/

BY GREG BLUESTEIN AND JAMES SALZER - THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

The crowds began gathering early Monday in the Capitol’s expansive lobby, and they didn’t stop filing in until four days later. By the week’s end, hundreds of candidates had qualified for political office. And for most incumbents, a cakewalk awaits to another term.

Qualifying week brought a cascade of candidates with their eyes on November. But despite hundreds of offices up for grabs, most candidates face no opposition. Redrawn political districts have etched out safe zones for most incumbents. And those who have managed to get elected wield an almost insurmountable financial advantage.

An Atlanta Journal-Constitution analysis found that incumbent state lawmakers together have roughly $11 million in campaign cash ready to unload against anyone with the temerity to mount a challenge. A fund aimed at protecting House incumbents has raised an additional $762,000.

That may help explain why only about one-third of incumbents seeking re-election in the Legislature face opponents.

The challenges only stiffen for those seeking higher offices. Republicans, who won every statewide post four years ago, have amassed nearly $8.5 million to maintain their foothold. All told, statewide and legislative incumbents have raised nearly $20 million to protect their offices. 

The lack of competitive down-ticket races is a perennial one. The Republican majority in the Legislature redrew the political lines after the 2010 census, making most districts virtually unwinnable by Democrats. Meanwhile, minority Democratic districts were reworked to make them largely impossible for a Republican to prevail.

The perks of incumbency, and the campaign cash that goes along with it, only complicate a would-be challenger’s strategy. …

A ‘security blanket’ for officeholders

Analysts point to several reasons for the lack of challenges. Redistricting and financial advantages have surely given incumbents a “security blanket,” but the media attention on marquee races at the top of the ticket also doesn’t help, said Kerwin Swint, a Kennesaw State University political analyst.

“Legislative races are taking a back seat to all the statewide activity this year — the open U.S. Senate seat and the governor’s race,” said Swint, a former political operative who studies campaign rhetoric. “That can sometimes drain the fundraising pool, as well as party commitments and other resources.”


 

A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers more than 150 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its approximately 41,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia and the third-largest university in the state. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the region and from 92 countries across the globe. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status, and one of the 50 largest public institutions in the country. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu

©