Special elections have always commanded a certain, well, special level of attention. Reporters breathlessly cover the elections that emerge from scandal-tinged resignations. Pundits read returns like tea leaves for a referendum on presidential performance. Policy wonks contemplate the impact that the vacancy of a long-time incumbent’s seat has on Congressional negotiation. In short, special elections count.
Despite the national attention these off-season contests receive, there has been relatively little study on the outcomes of special elections themselves, particularly of contests that have occurred in the last decade.
In the first of a two-part series, I use a database of Congressional special elections from 1971 onward to reveal why we should be paying more thoughtful attention to these off-season contests. This first post shows that special elections could be a particularly potent pipeline for female legislators.
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