Backfiring term limits

Via the Boston Globe:

Many jurisdictions have instituted term limits in an effort to rein in the advantage that accrues to incumbent politicians. The basic idea is that term limits will increase political competition, making politicians more accountable to the voters. But a new analysis, drawing on the experience of Maine and Florida, suggests term limits may have the opposite effect. In both states, where eight-year limits were enacted in the early ’90s, competition increased temporarily when the term limits took effect but then declined significantly. The authors theorize that term limits change the calculus for potential challengers. Incumbents who can keep running for reelection compel challengers to make a play at the earliest opportunity, but, with term limits, challengers can simply wait to run in the easier-to-win open election at the end of the incumbent’s term limit. Meanwhile, instead of exiting the political system, many termed-out legislators capitalize on their name recognition and fund-raising network to capture other state or local offices, making it even harder for new candidates to enter the system.

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