Courage, commitment, determination, and ego make first-time candidates run… But what does it take to make them win?
Edward Sidlow’s new case study, Challenging the Incumbent: An Underdog’s Undertaking, animates the scholarship on congressional elections as it tells an intimate, behind-the-scenes story of the 2000 congressional race in Illinois’ 8th district. Lance Pressl, a 42-year-old challenger takes on long-time incumbent Phil Crane in a political contest that epitomizes the trials and tribulations confronting those who dare to run against incumbents.
Combining the most recent scholarship on campaigns and elections with an eye-witness account of the day-to-day dynamics of a race, Sidlow documents Pressl’s efforts as he tries to win the support and commitment of his core constituents and powerful political allies. The challenges he faces are legion: Will major demographic changes in the district bode well for Pressl, a moderate Democrat running in a well-established Republican stronghold? Will Pressl’s well-connected personal contacts bring the dollars so critical to his campaign? Will they attract enough media attention? To whom can he turn for sound strategic advice and support? Balancing key issues in electoral politics with a fascinating David-and-Goliath storyline, Sidlow’s study will give students context in which to understand the dynamics—and the vagaries—of House elections.