"Winning isn't everything": The Re-Nomination of Losing Candidates



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Why do parties re-nominate losing candidates? This project develops a comparative theory for losers of elections, who are not a monolithic group of low-quality non-winners. We advance that political parties take note of two moments, one before the election and one after the race. These moments consider the electoral experience and the electoral performance of the candidate, respectively. Thus, we contend that parties treat experienced candidates differently from amateurs, and over-performers differently than under-performers when considering their futures in the electoral arena, despite all being equally losing candidates. For our empirical chapters, we explore the Chilean legislative elections, where an “insurance policy” mechanism for good losers developed mainly because of the electoral system in place since the return of democracy in 1989. This arrangement consisted of valuable appointments for candidates who were unable to win a legislative seat. Our exploration of the main question is twofold: first, we look at the seven legislative elections from 1989 to 2013, assessing the determinants of re-nomination, along with other outcomes that losing candidates followed. Second, we analyze the use of presidential appointments – to cabinet, embassies, or top regional executive positions – before and after the 2015 electoral reform, comparing the 2017 elections to the period including the seven races under the binominal electoral system. For the first empirical section, chapter 3, our main finding tells us that losing candidates who over-perform with respect to previous candidates for the same coalition in the same district are re-nominated in greater numbers than all other also-rans. Meanwhile, our second empirical section shows a continuous use of presidential appointments across both periods, pre and post-reform. Expanding the understanding of elections to include losing candidates – especially after realizing that some of these unsuccessful politicians come back to win elections – is a pending task for political scientists. We hope this is the start of a more nuanced discussion about the topic, with a framework that can be expanded to other countries. Similarly, these results can be complemented by qualitative studies with interviews to also-rans who are now winners, or to perennial losers, to gauge their strategies after being confronted with electoral defeat.



Losing Candidates, Chile, Legislative politics, Also-rans, Elections