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February 12, 2024

"The Price of Uncontested Prosecutor Elections: An Empirical Perspective"

The title of this post is the title of this new paper authored by Michael Heise and available via SSRN. Here is its abstract:

Most scholarship on local prosecutor elections largely ignores the influence of campaign contributions.  This is so despite an ever-increasing amount of campaign contributions that distribute unevenly across local prosecutor candidates and their mostly uncontested elections.  Motivating this study includes a desire to develop an initial accounting of factors, including campaign contributions, which plausibly inform the emergence of unopposed prosecutor candidates and uncontested elections.  Leveraging the leading and recently-released prosecutor election and campaign contributions data sets for the most recent prosecutor elections across the United States between 2012-2019, findings from this study identify a robust set of core factors that systematically distinguish unopposed candidates as well as their uncontested elections.  These factors include campaign contributions, district population, prosecutors’ political affiliation, and incumbency.  Overall, these results do not uncover any obvious policy levers that might help reduce the number of uncontested prosecutor candidates and elections. 

February 12, 2024 at 03:36 PM | Permalink


My experience is that, in elections in which an incumbent is successfully challenged, there is some issue/event that causes a large segment of the public to think that things need to change. If things are humming along with no controversy, the odds of beating an incumbent are slim. While there are some willing to be Don Quixote tilting at windmills, government attorneys (including the elected prosecutor) tend to not be that highly paid compared to what the private bar gets. So there are not many attorneys out there who are willing to self-fund a campaign that has minimal chance of succeeding and may result in a pay cut if it does succeed.

Posted by: tmm | Feb 12, 2024 5:12:15 PM

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