The Journal of Politics


Gaining and Losing Interest in Running for Public Office: The Concept of Dynamic Political Ambition

Richard L. Foxa1 and Jennifer L. Lawlessa2

a1 Loyola Marymount University

a2 American University


Considering a candidacy for public office involves pondering the courageous step of going before an electorate and facing potential examination, scrutiny, and rejection. Anyone who contemplates running for office, therefore, must answer a series of questions. Is the time right to inject my family into the political arena? Where am I in terms of my professional goals? Do I know enough about the issues and the political system to run for office? Am I in sync with my potential constituents on the issues that matter most? Have electoral gatekeepers indicated support for my foray into politics? Do I really want to take part in a political process that is so often associated with self-interest, corruption, and cynicism? In short, a variety of personal, professional, and political circumstances—circumstances that often change over time—undoubtedly affect the extent to which someone considers entering the electoral arena.

(Online publication May 13 2011)


Richard L. Fox is Associate Professor of Political Science at Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, CA 90045.

Jennifer L. Lawless is Associate Professor of Government at American University, Washington, DC 20016 where she is also the Director of the Women & Politics Institute.