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Book description

Becoming a Candidate: Political Ambition and the Decision to Run for Office explores the factors that drive political ambition at the earliest stages. Using data from a comprehensive survey of thousands of eligible candidates, Jennifer L. Lawless systematically investigates what compels certain citizens to pursue elective positions and others to recoil at the notion. Lawless assesses personal factors, such as race, gender and family dynamics, that affect an eligible candidate's likelihood of considering a run for office. She also focuses on eligible candidates' professional lives and attitudes toward the political system.


‘… Lawless … has masterfully tackled the puzzle of what stimulates ambitions for political office. She challenges us to look beyond the standard explanations that center on the structure of opportunities for political office to consider broader professional, social, and political influences. This is the first study of its kind to separately explore the differences between nascent ambition, the first germ of interest in holding office, and expressive ambition, the actual choice to run for office. The innovative research design allows a glimpse into the thoughts and feelings of thousands of men and women holding careers in law, business, education, and politics, careers that serve as common stepping stones to political office. By exploring how their experiences shaped their perceptions of politics and public office, and how these views evolved over time, she enlightens us about the future of political leadership in America.’

Cherie Maestas - Florida State University

‘The hard work of systematically measuring the origins of ambition for public office has been beyond the ken of political scientists - until now. In Becoming a Candidate, Jennifer L. Lawless successfully tackles one of the toughest research problems in modern politics - tracing the origins of political ambition and learning how potential candidates act on it. This book is the first effort to delve systematically into the choice to become a candidate, and it does so successfully with a combination of rigorous analysis and rich narrative. All students of campaign politics must have this excellent book in their personal library.’

Keith Gaddie - University of Oklahoma and author of Born to Run: Origins of the Political Career

'This is an impressive book that clearly illustrates that ambition is a dynamic and highly nuanced two-stage process: considering candidacy and deciding to run. For the scholar, there is much to ponder. For the teacher, the book is filled with many illustrative anecdotes and personal stories that make the findings accessible to a wide range of students. For the activist concerned about the quality of representation, Lawless identifies important challenges.'

Cindy Simon Rosenthal Source: Congress and the Presidency

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