Light that failed

By AL DIAMON  |  March 25, 2009

In the 2008 election, over 90 percent of incumbents were re-elected. I didn't have the energy to check every biennial ballot result since the law took effect, but I'll bet you a six-pack of your favorite malt beverage that there wasn't a single one in which anything close to 10 percent of incumbents seeking another term didn't get their wish.

Term limits, according to a 1992 press release from supporters, will "give the people of Maine renewed confidence in their ability to set the state on a better course."

Nice job of course setting, people of Maine.

I'm not alone in holding a less-than-positive opinion of term limits. Eric Prier and Kevin Wagner, two college professors from Florida universities, have just published "Running Unopposed: Assessing the Impact of Term Limits on Competition in Florida and Maine." According to an abstract from the article's publisher, term limits have failed to produce much in the way of competition.

"In fact," the abstract says, "it has generally declined, and often sharply. The findings suggest that potential candidates, while influenced by local or national trends, wait for guaranteed open seats rather than challenge incumbents."

In addition, the authors say, termed-out pols don't tend to fade into civilian anonymity. Instead, they employ their enhanced name recognition to run for higher office — in 1994, Michael Michaud and Chellie Pingree were both state senators; today, they're US representatives — thereby making it even harder for newcomers to find an opening.

How about a limit on term limits.

Gain unlimited access to me by e-mailing aldiamon@herniahill.net.

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