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Becoming a Candidate: Political Ambition and the Decision to Run for Office Hardcover – December 26, 2011
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"Jennifer L. Lawless, in Becoming a Candidate, 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, The University of Oklahoma, author of Born to Run: Origins of the Political Career
"Using survey and interview data, Lawless analyzes factors that influence nascent political ambition in order to predict why people decide to run for political office. Summing Up: Highly recommended."
J. E. Walsh, Choice
"Becoming a Candidate provides an extensive and unmatched look at the development of political ambition. This book makes significant contributions to our understanding of candidate emergence, representation of race and gender, political socialization, and why who seeks office matters for the functioning of American democracy, making it a must-read for scholars working in these fields."
Melody Crowder-Meyer, American Review of Politics
"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, Congress and the Presidency
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.
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As with most academia, this can be a trying read if you are not into the subject matter. That being said, Lawless' work is well-researched and covers an area that many don't draw attention to. This book serves as an interesting piece to those who feel that political candidates are just rich, old men and that the process for becoming a candidate is not much of a process at all.
As Lawless shows, there is a documented and logical process to becoming a candidate, and writes in a way that even those disinterested in the subject will find somewhat enjoyable.