The impact of state legislative term limits on the supply of congressional candidates

Jennifer A. Steen

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Do term limits affect the probability that an incumbent state legislator will run for the United States Congress? The theory of strategic politicians suggests that by reducing legislators' opportunity costs of running for higher office, term limits should push some legislators into congressional campaigns they would have foregone had a long-term legislative career been an option. To test this hypothesis, I analyze data from congressional elections held from 1992 through 2004 in the 15 states where term limits were operative in 2004. I find that sitting state legislators who have hit the limit of their state legislative service are more likely to run for Congress than those who are eligible to serve additional terms, whether those terms are limited or not. However, there is no statistically significant difference between the congressional-candidacy rates of legislators whose re-election eligibility is limited, but not exhausted, and legislators whose terms are not limited. By increasing the supply of experienced challengers, term limits may increase competition in elections for non-term-limited offices and, consequently, the quality of representation provided by those elected.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)430-447
Number of pages18
JournalState Politics and Policy Quarterly
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Political Science and International Relations


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