More than half of Kentuckys mayoral elections unopposed

first_imgShareRice UniversityOffice of Public Affairs / News & Media RelationsNEWS RELEASEDavid [email protected] [email protected] than half of Kentucky’s mayoral elections unopposedReport from Rice’s Kinder Institute also finds that opposed mayoral elections tend not to be close HOUSTON – (May 16, 2016) – More than half of Kentucky’s mayoral elections are unopposed, according to a new report from the Center for Local Elections in American Politics (LEAP), part of Rice University’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research. The research also finds that contested mayoral elections tend not to be close.Photo credit: Shutterstock.The report, “Mayoral Elections in Kentucky 2010-2014,” examines a host of indicators regarding mayoral elections in the Bluegrass State. The data for the report include 721 mayoral general elections and 43 primary elections held between November 2010 and November 2014. There were nine unique election dates, including primaries and special elections. Of the mayoral general elections, 700 were nonpartisan and 21 were partisan; approximately 96 percent of general elections were held simultaneously with a midterm election, while the remainder were held simultaneously with a presidential election. On average, turnout for mayoral elections in these years was 38 percent.The study’s key finding revealed a noticeable lack of competition. More than half of Kentucky’s mayoral elections – 57.4 percent – were unopposed, meaning the lone person who sought the office was elected. In addition, when there was more than one candidate, mayoral elections tended not to be close, with the average margin of victory at around 24 percentage points. The incidence of unopposed elections was particularly high in suburban municipalities, where more than two-thirds of mayoral contests were uncontested.John Lappie, a postdoctoral research fellow for LEAP and the study’s lead author, said that this lack of competition has serious implications for local government in Kentucky.“When we see that such an overwhelming share of mayoral contests in these cities present voters with no actual choices, we can only describe the health of local democracy in these cities as poor,” he said.  “There seems little probability of holding local government accountable when there is no competition.”The report noted that the lack of challengers is even more troubling in the suburban municipalities located within the Louisville metropolitan government, which has been consolidated since 2003. In this area, 85 percent of mayoral races did not include competitors.  Melissa Marschall, director of LEAP and a professor of political science at Rice, said that the decision to retain the municipal governments of the suburbs of Louisville was “no doubt a compromise that alleviated the fears of suburbanites at the time of consolidation.” However, she noted that it has left a class of city with “very light competition, perhaps negligible functional responsibility and a questionable raison d’être.”  “This is a problem of such importance that it should be redressed,” Marschall said. “We cannot say so definitely here, but it seems likely that the lack of contested elections leads to a lack of accountability. Whether or not corruption is higher in these cities than elsewhere we cannot say with our data. However, we can say that there is little defense against corrupt officials when competition, and therefore public attention to city government, is so low. Perhaps steps should be taken to increase political awareness in the metropolitan government suburbs. Or powers could be extended to these cities that would make their governments more important, attracting both the civic-minded and the progressively ambitious to seek public office. On the more extreme end, perhaps the suburban city governments within the Louisville Metro serve little purpose and could be abolished.”The report also includes the following findings:Turnout was higher in suburban Kentucky communities as opposed to rural municipalities (that is, cities in rural areas).Incumbents running for re-election in Kentucky were generally assured of re-election. This was especially true in suburban communities, where 90 percent of incumbent mayors were re-elected.The Kentucky study is the second of several reports on municipal elections to be released in 2016 by the Kinder Institute’s Center for Local Elections in American Politics. Forthcoming reports will examine trends in municipal contests in Indiana, Virginia, Louisiana, Minnesota, South Carolina, North Carolina and Washington.The researchers hope the Kentucky report and forthcoming reports will provide helpful analysis to policymakers seeking ways to improve political participation and strengthen local democracy in America.A grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation provided support for the research. The full report is available online at and -30-Follow Rice News and Media Relations on Twitter @RiceUNews.Related materials:Executive summary, report and additional materials are available at for Local Elections in American Politics:’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research: Institute Twitter handle: John S. and James L. Knight Foundation website: link: credit: Shutterstock. Located on a 300-acre forested campus in Houston, Rice University is consistently ranked among the nation’s top 20 universities by U.S. News & World Report. Rice has highly respected schools of Architecture, Business, Continuing Studies, Engineering, Humanities, Music, Natural Sciences and Social Sciences and is home to the Baker Institute for Public Policy. With 3,910 undergraduates and 2,809 graduate students, Rice’s undergraduate student-to-faculty ratio is 6-to-1. Its residential college system builds close-knit communities and lifelong friendships, just one reason why Rice is ranked No. 1 for best quality of life and for lots of race/class interaction by the Princeton Review. Rice is also rated as a best value among private universities by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance. To read “What they’re saying about Rice,” go to AddThislast_img

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