* It’s incumbency…
By analyzing data from state legislative races across the country in 2013 and 2014, the Montana-based National Institute on Money in State Politics determined that voters re-elected 91 percent of incumbents running in general elections. Current officeholders who raised more campaign cash than their opponents were even more likely to retain their seats, winning 94 percent of their races.
“Incumbency was the most powerful single factor determining a state legislative candidate’s success in the 2013 and 2014 elections, followed closely by the power of money,” Linda Casey, the institute’s lead researcher, wrote in a March report. The trend has held relatively steady since the 2001 and 2002 state election cycles, according to the institute.
The power of incumbency was even stronger in Illinois in 2014, with only one incumbent out of 124 — former state Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline — losing in the general election. Three other incumbents, two Democrats and one Republican, withdrew after the primaries. […]
Jacobs’ defeat at the hands of now-Sen. Neil Anderson, R-Rock Island, was a rare loss for an incumbent who raised more money than his challenger. Jacobs spent $2.1 million to Anderson’s $1.9 million in the most expensive legislative race in Illinois history, according to an analysis from Kent Redfield, an emeritus professor of political science at the University of Illinois Springfield.
Those dollar amounts almost seem quaint these days.