Monday, July 19, 2010

Florida incumbents rarely lose, records show

There's one thing that's unquestionably difficult for legislative incumbents to do when it comes to Florida elections: Lose.

In fact, sitting lawmakers in Florida are almost assured of re-election as long as they run. In the past 10 years, according to an examination of state records, only 10 of 505 incumbent lawmakers - less than 2 percent - have been defeated in bids for re-election. That includes a successful re-election rate of 98.9 percent for state senators - only one has been defeated in the last decade - and 97.8 percent for House members.

Only one Northeast Florida lawmaker has been defeated over the same time frame, former Rep. Jim Tullis, who lost to Stan Jordan in the 2000 GOP primary.

According to a recent report by the National Institute on Money in State Politics, Florida's 98 percent success rate for incumbents in contested elections in 2007-08 was surpassed only by a perfect record for incumbents in Arkansas, Massachusetts, Michigan and Wyoming.

The institute found the decisive factor in incumbents' favor is fundraising.

"Money mattered in Florida: Candidates with the fundraising advantage won 92 percent of the time," according to the report, The Role of Money & Incumbency in 2007-2008 State Elections. "Incumbents were top fundraisers 92 percent of the time, as well, and everyone with the dual advantage won."

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