Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2013

Document Type


First Advisor

Kenneth Bickers


This paper examines the competitiveness of contests, and the quality of candidates, in local contests with term limits. Previous literature is divided on the subject of term limits, with research finding either negative effects of term limits, or limited positive effects. This paper hypothesizes that the quality of challengers will not increase in term limited contests, and that the competitiveness of contests will decrease for term limited offices. Using data from California, Colorado, Florida, Virginia, and Washington local contests, this paper examines approximately four hundred-fifty candidates through survey, and approximately one thousand contests. The quality of challengers does not appear to change in the presence of term limits, and incumbents do not seem more or less susceptible to defeat in term limited offices. However, this analysis finds that the vote margin of term limited contests increases in the context of incumbency and partisan contests. The implications of these findings suggest that term limits may not be worth the trouble of implementing, and may be having the opposite effect of what many term limit proponents claim. Constituent representation is possibly negatively affected by less competitive contests.