The incumbent is the current holder of an office. This term is usually used in reference to elections, in which races can often be defined as being between an incumbent and non-incumbent(s). For example, in the Hungarian presidential election, 2017, János Áder was the incumbent, because he had been the president in the term before the term for which the election sought to determine the president. A race without an incumbent is referred to as an open seat.


The word "incumbent" is derived from the Latin verb incumbere, literally meaning "to lean or lay upon" with the present participle stem incumbent-, "leaning a variant of encumber,[1] while encumber is derived from the root cumber,[2] most appropriately defined: "To occupy obstructively or inconveniently; to block fill up with what hinders freedom of motion or action; to burden, load."[3]

Incumbency advantage

In general, incumbents have structural advantages over challengers during elections. The timing of elections may be determined by the incumbent instead of a set schedule. For most political offices, the incumbent often has more name recognition due to their previous work in the office. Incumbents also have easier access to campaign finance, as well as government resources (such as the franking privilege) that can be indirectly used to boost a campaign. An election (especially for a single-member constituency in a legislature) in which no incumbent is running is often called an open seat; because of the lack of incumbency advantage, these are often amongst the most hotly contested races in any election.

When newcomers look to fill an open office, voters tend to compare and contrast the candidates' qualifications, positions on political issues, and personal characteristics in a relatively straightforward way. Elections featuring an incumbent, on the other hand, are, as Guy Molyneux puts it, "fundamentally a referendum on the incumbent."[4] Voters will first grapple with the record of the incumbent. Only if they decide to "fire" the incumbent do they begin to evaluate whether each of the challengers is an acceptable alternative.

A 2017 study in the British Journal of Political Science argues that the incumbency advantage stems from the fact that voters evaluate the incumbent's ideology individually whereas they assume that any challenger shares his party's ideology.[5] This means that the incumbency advantage gets more significant as political polarization increases.[5] A 2017 study in the Journal of Politics found that incumbents have "a far larger advantage" in on-cycle elections than in off-cycle elections.[6]

Sophomore surge

Political analysts in the United States and United Kingdom have noted the existence of a sophomore surge in which first term representatives see an increase in votes in their first election. This phenomenon is said to bring an advantage of up to 10% for first term representatives, which increases the incumbency advantage.


However, there exist scenarios in which the incumbency factor itself leads to the downfall of the incumbent. Popularly known as the anti-incumbency factor, situations of this kind occur when the incumbent has proven himself not worthy of office during his tenure and the challengers demonstrate this to the voters. An anti-incumbency factor can also be responsible for bringing down incumbents who have been in office for many successive terms despite performance indicators, simply because the voters are convinced by the challengers of a need for change. It is also argued that the holders of extensively powerful offices are subject to immense pressure which leaves them politically impotent and unable to command enough public confidence for re-election; such is the case, for example, with the Presidency of France.[7]

Nick Panagakis, a pollster, coined what he dubbed the incumbent rule in 1989—that any voter who claims to be undecided towards the end of the election will probably end up voting for a challenger.[8]

See also


  1. ^ OED (1989), p. 834
  2. ^ OED (1989), p. 218
  3. ^ OED (1989), p. 124
  4. ^ Guy Molyneux, The Big Five-Oh, The American Prospect, 1 October 2004.
  5. ^ a b Peskowitz, Zachary (2017-05-01). "Ideological Signaling and Incumbency Advantage". British Journal of Political Science: 1–24. doi:10.1017/S0007123416000557. ISSN 0007-1234.
  6. ^ de Benedictis-Kessner, Justin (2017-12-07). "Off-Cycle and Out of Office: Election Timing and the Incumbency Advantage". The Journal of Politics. 80: 119–132. doi:10.1086/694396. ISSN 0022-3816.
  7. ^ Robert Tombs (May 2, 2017). "France's Presidency Is Too Powerful to Work". Polling Report. Retrieved December 3, 2017.
  8. ^ Nick Panagakis (February 27, 1989). "Incumbent Rule". Polling Report. Retrieved February 5, 2016.


Further reading

1940 United States House of Representatives elections

The 1940 United States House of Representatives elections coincided with President Franklin D. Roosevelt's re-election to an unprecedented third term. His Democratic Party narrowly gained seats from the opposition Republican Party, cementing their majority. However, the election gave firm control of the US House of Representatives and Senate to the New Dealers once again, as Progressives dominated the election.The upswing in the economy that occurred following the Recession of 1937-38 encouraged voters that the New Deal plan had been working. This allowed the Democrats to stabilize their support.

As of 2018, this is the last time the House of Representatives was made up of six parties.

1960 United States House of Representatives elections

The 1960 United States House of Representatives elections was an election for the United States House of Representatives in 1960, which coincided with the election of President John F. Kennedy and was the first house election to feature all 50 U.S. states. In spite of Kennedy's victory, his Democratic Party lost 20 seats to the Republican Party. That may have been a reaction to the major Democratic gains in the previous election. An end to the economic downturn of the mid-1950s was also a factor. Still, the Democrats retained a clear majority in the House.

There were 437 seats: 435 from the reapportionment in accordance with the 1950 census, and 1 seat for each of the new states of Alaska and Hawaii.

1968 United States House of Representatives elections

The 1968 United States House of Representatives elections were elections for the United States House of Representatives in 1968 which coincided with Richard M. Nixon's election as President. Nixon's narrow victory yielded only limited gains for his Republican Party, which picked up a net of five seats from the Democratic Party. The Democrats retained a majority in the House.

The election coincided with the presidential campaign of George Wallace of the American Independent Party, who unsuccessfully attempted to deny a majority in the Electoral College to any of his opponents. Had Wallace succeeded he would have given the House the choice of president from among the three, for the first time since 1825. As a result of this election, Democrats formed a majority of 26 state House delegations, with Republicans forming a majority in 19 and the other five delegations being evenly split (each state's House delegation receives one vote in such an election). However, the Democrats' nominal majority of state delegations includes those of the Southern states who were more inclined to support Wallace as opposed to Democratic candidate Hubert Humphrey. Wallace believed the Southern representatives would be able to use the clout his campaign was trying to give them to force an end to federal desegregation efforts in the South.

Notable freshmen were future Senator and Governor Lowell P. Weicker (R-CT), future Senator John Glenn Beall Jr., future Secretary of the Interior Manuel Lujan Jr., future Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit Abner J. Mikva and future Mayor of New York City Ed Koch (D-NY).

1974 United States House of Representatives elections

The 1974 United States House of Representatives elections were elections for the United States House of Representatives in 1974 that occurred in the wake of the Watergate scandal, which had forced President Richard Nixon to resign in favor of Gerald Ford. This scandal, along with high inflation, allowed the Democrats to make large gains in the midterm elections, taking 49 seats from the Republicans and increasing their majority above the two-thirds mark.

1978 United States House of Representatives elections

The 1978 United States House of Representatives elections was an election for the United States House of Representatives in 1978 which occurred in the middle of President Jimmy Carter's term, when the country was going through an energy crisis and facing rapid inflation. The President's Democratic Party lost seats to the opposition Republican Party, in this case a net of 15 meaning the loss of their two-thirds majority but the Democrats still retained a rather large majority. This was the last midterm election where the Democrats managed to maintain a majority under a Democratic president.

1980 United States House of Representatives elections

The 1980 United States House of Representatives elections was an election for the United States House of Representatives in 1980 which coincided with the election of Ronald Reagan as President. Reagan's victory also allowed many Republican House candidates to secure election, and the Republicans gained a net of 35 seats from the Democratic Party. The Democrats nonetheless retained a significant majority, unlike the Senate elections, where Republicans gained control of the chamber. However, many Democratic congressmen from the south (known as "Boll weevils") frequently took conservative stances on issues, allowing Republicans to have a working ideological majority for some of President Reagan's proposals during his first two years in office.

This election marked the first time since Reconstruction that Republicans won a sizable majority of Representatives from a Deep South state (South Carolina). It was also the first time that the new Libertarian Party received the third-largest share of the popular vote in both chambers of Congress.

1986 United States House of Representatives elections

The 1986 United States House of Representatives elections was held on November 4, 1986, in the middle of President Ronald Reagan's second term in office while he was still relatively popular with the American public. As in most midterm elections, the President's party—in this case, the Republican Party — lost seats, with the Democratic Party gaining a net of five seats and cementing its majority. These results were not as dramatic as those in the Senate, where the Republicans lost control of the chamber to the Democrats. Notable freshmen include future House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL), future Senators Jon Kyl, Ben Nighthorse Campbell, Jim Bunning, Ben Cardin, Jim Inhofe, and Tim Johnson , former Governor of Maine Joseph E. Brennan, future Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy, future Administrator of the Small Business Administration Pat Saiki, and former Chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee John Lewis.

1990 United States House of Representatives elections

The 1990 United States House of Representatives elections was an election for the United States House of Representatives in 1990 which occurred in the middle of President George H. W. Bush's term. As in most midterm elections, the President's Republican Party lost seats to the Democratic Party, slightly increasing the Democratic majority in the chamber. It was a rare instance, however, in which both major parties lost votes to third parties such as the Libertarian Party as well as independent candidates. Notable freshmen included independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont's at-large congressional district, future Senators Wayne Allard, Rick Santorum, and Jack Reed, future House Speaker John Boehner, and future Director of the Office of Management and Budget Jim Nussle.

1992 United States House of Representatives elections

The 1992 United States House of Representatives elections coincided with the 1992 presidential election, in which Democrat Bill Clinton was elected as President, defeating Republican incumbent President George H. W. Bush.

Despite this, however, the Democrats lost a net of nine seats in the House to the Republicans, in part due to redistricting following the 1990 Census. The Democrats nonetheless retained a majority in the House and Senate.

This election was the first using districts drawn on the basis of the 1990 Census. The redrawn districts were notable for the increase in majority-minority districts, drawn as mandated by the Voting Rights Act. The 1980 Census resulted in 17 majority-black districts and 10 majority-Hispanic districts, but 32 and 19 such districts, respectively, were drawn after 1990.Among the Representatives first elected in 1992 were eight future Senators (Sherrod Brown, Maria Cantwell, Mike Crapo, Rod Grams, Tim Hutchinson, Blanche Lincoln, Bob Menendez, and Jim Talent) and three future Governors (Nathan Deal, Jay Inslee, and Ted Strickland). Also elected were future San Diego mayor Bob Filner, future Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett, 2008 Green Party presidential nominee Cynthia McKinney, and the first Korean-American elected to Congress, Jay Kim.

1994 United States House of Representatives elections

The 1994 United States House of Representatives election (also known as the Republican Revolution) was held on November 8, 1994, in the middle of President Bill Clinton's first term. As a result of a 54-seat swing in membership from Democrats to Republicans, the Republican Party gained a majority of seats in the United States House of Representatives for the first time since 1952 and a majority of votes for the first time since 1946. It was also the largest seat gain for the Republican Party since 1946, and the largest for either party since 1948.

The Democrats had run the House since 1954, and since 1932 there had only been 4 years when the House was under GOP control. But in 1994 the Republican Party ran against President Clinton's proposed healthcare reform, benefited from impressions of corruption created by the Whitewater investigation, and picked up a majority of voters who had voted for Ross Perot in 1992. The Republicans argued that Clinton had abandoned the centrist New Democrat platform he campaigned on during the 1992 Presidential election and reverted to big government solutions. The GOP ran on Newt Gingrich's Contract with America.

The incumbent Speaker, Democrat Tom Foley, lost re-election in his district, becoming the first Speaker of the House to lose re-election since Galusha Grow in 1862. Other major upsets included the defeat of powerful long-serving Representatives such as Democratic Ways and Means Chairman Dan Rostenkowski and Democratic Judiciary Chairman Jack Brooks. In all, 34 incumbents (all Democrats) were defeated. Republicans also won the seats of retiring Democrats. Democrats won four Republican-held seats where the incumbents were stepping down. No Republican incumbent lost his or her seat in these elections.

The incumbent Republican Minority whip, Newt Gingrich, was re-elected in the Republican landslide and became Speaker as the incumbent Republican Minority Leader, Robert H. Michel, retired. The incumbent Democratic Majority Leader, Dick Gephardt, became Minority Leader. The new House leadership, under the Republicans, promised to bring a dozen legislative proposals to a vote in the first 100 days of the session, although the Senate did not always follow suit. A significant realigning election, the South underwent a drastic transformation. Before the election, House Democrats outnumbered House Republicans in the South. Afterwards, with the Republicans having picked up a total of 19 Southern seats, they were able to outnumber Democrats in the South for the first time since Reconstruction. The Republicans would go on to remain the majority party of the House for the following 12 years, until the 2006 elections.

1996 United States House of Representatives elections

The 1996 United States House of Representatives elections was an election for the U.S. House of Representatives on November 5, 1996, which coincided with the re-election of President Bill Clinton. Democrats won by almost 60,000 votes (0.07%) and gained a net of two seats from the Republicans, but the Republicans retained an overall majority of seats in the House for the first time since 1928.

Although the Republicans lost 3 seats, 1 of them included an Independent who would caucus with them and switch to the Republicans. This resulted in a 227 Republican majority to the Democrat's 208 minority which also included an Independent caucusing with them.

The election is similar to the 1952 elections, although, in terms of the total vote this result remains one of the closest in U.S. history.

Notable freshmen included future Senators Jerry Moran, Debbie Stabenow, Roy Blunt, John E. Sununu, and John Thune, future Governor of Arkansas Asa Hutchinson, future Governor of Illinois Rod Blagojevich, future Governor of Nevada Jim Gibbons, future Governor of Alabama Bob Riley, former Mayor of Cleveland and future Presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich, former Lieutenant Governor of Rhode Island Robert Weygand, and future Constitution Party Presidential nominee Virgil Goode.

1998 United States House of Representatives elections

The 1998 United States House of Representatives elections were part of the midterm elections held during President Bill Clinton's second term. They were a major disappointment to the Republicans, who were expecting to gain seats due to the embarrassment Clinton suffered during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, and the "six-year itch" effect observed in most second-term midterm elections. However, the Republicans lost five seats to the Democrats, but retained a narrow majority in the House. A wave of Republican discontent with Speaker Newt Gingrich prompted him to resign shortly after the election; he was replaced by Congressman Dennis Hastert of Illinois.

The campaign was marked by Republican attacks on the morality of President Bill Clinton, with Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr having released his report on the Lewinsky scandal and House leaders having initiated an inquiry into whether impeachable offenses had occurred. However, exit polls indicated that most voters opposed impeaching Clinton, and predictions of high Republican or low Democratic turnout due to the scandal failed to materialize. Some speculate that the losses reflected a backlash against the Republicans for attacking the popular President Clinton. With the Republicans having lost 4 House seats and failing to gain any seats in the Senate, it was the first time since 1934 that the non-presidential party failed to gain congressional seats in a mid-term election. This status quo election was also due to the strong and growing economy due to the Dot Com Bubble. It was also the first time since 1822 that the non-presidential party had failed to gain seats in the mid-term election of a President's second term.

Seats picked up by the Democrats included Kansas's 3rd district, Nevada's 1st district, Pennsylvania's 13th district, New Mexico's 3rd district, New Jersey's 12th district, Kentucky's 4th district, Mississippi's 4th district, California's 1st district, Wisconsin's 2nd district, Washington's 1st district, and Washington's 3rd district. The Republicans, however, picked up seats in Kentucky's 6th district, Wisconsin's 8th district, California's 3rd district, California's 36th district, Pennsylvania's 15th district, and North Carolina's 8th district.

2008 United States House of Representatives elections

The 2008 United States House of Representatives elections were held on November 4, 2008, to elect members to the United States House of Representatives to serve in the 111th United States Congress from January 3, 2009, until January 3, 2011. It coincided with the election of Barack Obama as President. All 435 voting seats, as well as all 6 non-voting seats, were up for election. The Democratic Party, which won a majority of seats in the 2006 election, expanded its control in 2008. The Republican Party, hoping to regain the majority it lost in the 2006 election or at least expand its congressional membership, lost additional seats. With one exception (Louisiana's 2nd district), the only seats to switch from Democratic to Republican had been Republican-held prior to the 2006 elections. Republicans gained five Democratic seats total, while losing 26 of their own, giving the Democrats a net gain of 21 seats, effectively erasing all gains made by the GOP since 1994. In addition, with the defeat of a Republican congressman in Connecticut's 4th district, this became the first time since the 1850s that no Republican represented the New England region. The 10.6% popular vote advantage by the Democrats was the largest by either party since 1982, 26 years earlier. Turnout increased due to the 2008 presidential election. The presidential election, 2008 Senate elections, and 2008 state gubernatorial elections, as well as many other state and local elections, occurred on the same date.

2012 United States House of Representatives elections

The 2012 United States House of Representatives elections were held on Tuesday, November 6, 2012. It coincided with the reelection of President Barack Obama. Elections were held for all 435 seats representing the 50 U.S. states and also for the delegates from the District of Columbia and five major U.S. territories. The winners of this election cycle served in the 113th United States Congress. This was the first congressional election using districts drawn-up based on the 2010 United States Census.

Although Democratic candidates received a nationwide plurality of more than 1.4 million votes (1.2%) in all House elections, the Republican Party won a 33-seat advantage in the state-apportioned totals, thus retaining its House majority by 17 seats. Democrats had picked up 27 seats, enough to win back control of the House, but most of these gains were canceled out due to Republican gains as well as reapportionment, leaving the Democrats with a net gain of 8 seats. This disparity – common in close elections involving single-member district voting – has generally been attributed to targeted, widespread Republican gerrymandering in the congressional redistricting process following the 2010 United States Census. Some analysts believe that in addition to Republican gerrymandering, other factors that helped the GOP maintain control of congress, despite getting fewer votes, included the large number of Democratic votes in urban centers which led to "unintentional gerrymandering," as compact districts naturally led to "wasted votes" in districts that easily elected Democratic candidates. The GOP also had a greater number of incumbents, who tend to have an advantage in elections.In the previous century, on four occasions the party with a plurality of the popular vote was unable to receive a majority in the House, but only twice since World War II. The last times were in 1952 and 1996, in which the GOP held a majority in the House. The 1942 election was the last time that the Democrats held a majority in the House without winning the popular vote. Notable freshmen included future U.S. Senators Tom Cotton, Kevin Cramer, Steve Daines, Tammy Duckworth, and Kyrsten Sinema, future Governor of New Mexico Michelle Lujan Grisham, future Governor of Florida Ron DeSantis, and future U.S. Senate candidate and Democratic activist Beto O’Rourke.

2014 United States House of Representatives elections

The 2014 United States House of Representatives elections were held on November 4, 2014, in the middle of President Barack Obama's second term in office.

Elections were held for all 435 seats of the House of Representatives, representing the 50 states. Elections were also held for the non-voting delegates from the District of Columbia and four of the five territories. The winners of these elections served in the 114th United States Congress, with seats apportioned among the states based on the 2010 United States Census. The Republicans won 16 seats from Democrats, while three Republican-held seats turned Democratic. The Republicans achieved their largest majority in the House since 1928 due to a sizeable Republican wave. Combined with the Republican gains made in 2010, the total number of Democratic-held House seats lost under Barack Obama's presidency in midterm elections rose to 77 with these elections. This marked the highest number of House seats lost under a two-term president of the same party since Harry S. Truman. With 36.4% of eligible voters voting, the voter turnout was the lowest since 1942. Notable freshmen included future U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke and future U.S. Senator Martha McSally.

2016 United States House of Representatives elections

The 2016 United States House of Representatives elections were held on November 8, 2016, to elect representatives for all 435 congressional districts across each of the 50 U.S. states. Non-voting members for the District of Columbia and Territories of the United States were also elected. These elections coincided with the election of President Donald Trump, although his party lost seats in both chambers of Congress. The winners of this election serve in the 115th Congress, with seats apportioned among the states based on the 2010 United States Census. In October 2015, the House elected a new Speaker, Republican Paul Ryan, who was re-elected in the new term. Democrat Nancy Pelosi continued to lead her party as Minority Leader.

Elections were also held on the same day for the U.S. Senate, many governors, and other state and local elections.

Notable freshmen included future U.S. Senator Jacky Rosen, former Representative Carol Shea-Porter, and former Florida Governor Charlie Crist.

2018 United States House of Representatives elections

The 2018 United States House of Representatives elections were held on November 6, 2018, with early voting taking place in some states in the weeks preceding that date. Voters chose representatives from all 435 congressional districts across each of the 50 U.S. states. Non-voting delegates from the District of Columbia and four of the five inhabited U.S. territories were also elected. These midterm elections took place nearly halfway through the first term of Republican President Donald Trump. On Election Day, Republicans had held a House majority since January 2011.In the 2018 midterm elections, the Democrats, led by Nancy Pelosi, won control of the House and gained 41 seats from their total after the 2016 elections (including one seat gained previously with Conor Lamb's March 2018 special election victory). The 41-seat gain was the Democrats' largest gain of House seats since the post-Watergate 1974 elections, when they picked up 49 seats. The Democrats also won the popular vote by a margin of 8.6%, the largest margin on record for a minority party. Turnout was unprecedented for a midterm election, with more than 50% of eligible voters casting their ballots.

Upon the opening of the 116th United States Congress, Pelosi was elected as Speaker of the House. Incumbent Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan chose to retire in 2018 instead of seeking another term. In November 2018, House Republicans elected Kevin McCarthy as House Minority Leader.

2020 United States Senate elections

Elections to the United States Senate will be held on November 3, 2020, with the 33 Class 2 seats of the Senate being contested in regular elections. The winners will be elected to six-year terms extending from January 3, 2021, until January 3, 2027. Additionally, there will be a special election in Arizona to fill the vacancy created by the death of John McCain in 2018.

In 2014, the last regularly-scheduled elections for Class 2 Senate seats, the Republicans won a net gain of nine seats from the Democrats and gained a majority in the Senate. Republicans defended that majority in 2016 and 2018, and held 53 Senate seats following the 2018 elections. Democrats held 45 seats after the 2018 elections, while independents caucusing with the Democratic Party held two seats.

Legislative Assembly of Ontario

The Legislative Assembly of Ontario (French: Assemblée législative de l'Ontario) is one of two components of the Legislature of Ontario (also known as the Parliament of Ontario), the other being the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario. The Legislative Assembly is the second largest Canadian provincial deliberative assembly by number of members after the National Assembly of Quebec. The Assembly meets at the Ontario Legislative Building at Queen's Park in the provincial capital of Toronto.

The Legislative Assembly was established by the British North America Act, 1867 (later re-titled Constitution Act, 1867), which dissolved the Province of Canada into two new provinces, with the portion then called Canada West becoming Ontario. The Legislature has been unicameral since its inception, with the Assembly currently having 124 seats (increased from 107 as of the 42nd Ontario general election) representing electoral districts ("ridings") elected through a first-past-the-post electoral system across the province.

As at the federal level in Canada, Ontario uses a Westminster-style parliamentary government, in which members are elected to the Legislative Assembly through general elections, from which the Premier of Ontario and Executive Council of Ontario are appointed based on majority support. The premier is Ontario's head of government, while the Lieutenant Governor, as representative of the Queen, acts as head of state. The largest party not forming the government is known as the Official Opposition, its leader being recognized as Leader of the Opposition by the Speaker.

The Ontario Legislature is sometimes referred to as the "Ontario Provincial Parliament". Members of the assembly refer to themselves as "Members of the Provincial Parliament" (MPPs) as opposed to "Members of the Legislative Assembly" (MLAs) as in many other provinces. Ontario is the only province to do so, in accordance with a resolution passed in the Assembly on April 7, 1938. However, the Legislative Assembly Act refers only to "members of the Assembly".

The current assembly was elected on June 7, 2018, as part of the 42nd Parliament of Ontario.

Owing to the location of the Legislative Building on the grounds of Queen's Park, the metonym "Queen's Park" is often used to refer to both the Government of Ontario and the Legislative Assembly.

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