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Cover for Political Ambition

Political Ambition

Who Decides to Run for Congress

Linda L. Fowler, Robert D. McClure


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How do politicians decide whether or not to run for Congress? What is involved in the winnowing process that dictates, months before the election, the choices available to voters on the ballot? Using extensive interviews and analyses of district data and opinion polls, Linda Fowler and Robert McClure argue that House elections are intelligible only if we look beyond that declared candidates to those who could have run but chose not to. Their book, set in New York’s can Congressional District during the elections of 1984 and 1986, assesses the personal and contextual factors that motivate some individuals to enter a House race and induce others to remain on the sidelines. By uncovering the hidden obstacles that line the road to Washington, Fowler and McClure reveal why only the most ambitious men and women complete the journey. Fowler and McClure contend that the cost cna complexity of competitive House races now demand a level of commitment and advance planning that only those with a highly focused desire to serve in Congress can sustain. Despite the increased presence of national parties and PACs in congressional races, they say, it is the local political context that dominates the decision to run. Within this setting, individual candidates, not party organizations develop the strategies, manage the resources, and define the alternatives in most House races. Fowler and McClure discuss how changes in American politics such as reapportionment, the redistribution of power away from Washington, and the transformation of parties and interest groups affect the nation's supply of competitive office-seekers. And they devote special attention to the recruitment of female legislators, offering insight into the continued failure of women to make significant inroads into the House of Representatives.  

Yale University Press, 9780300049015, 264pp.

Publication Date: September 10, 1990