The 2010 State Politics and Policy Conference

A few random observations from the 10th annual state politics conference, held last week in Abraham Lincoln’s home town:

Thad Kousser: Ask anybody here what a “good” state legislature should look like. Can anybody actually answer that? Seth Masket: Campaigns can matter. In districts that Colorado’s wealthy Democrats targeted via 527s, Democratic candidates for state legislature did 4% better than in previous elections. Apparently, a team of four extremely wealthy Democratic donors singlehandedly swung the legislature to the Democrats. Adam Brown: Self-financed spending is not strategic. Candidates spend if they have it, regardless of their likelihood of victory. (Yes, that was a shameless self-promotion.)

David Konisky and Neal Woods: Smart state governments should encourage their biggest polluters to locate along state boundaries. That way, the state can reap the benefits of industry, but let all the pollution drift into neighboring states. Great theoretical story. Awesome maps showing locations of all polluters in each state. Trouble is, the presentation ended with Konisky saying that all the empirical tests produced null results. There’s no evidence that states are actually doing this. As far as the “gotcha” goes, what a letdown. But I suppose we should be glad about these null findings. Emily Huston: HAVA set minimal standards for voter identification, but allowed states to impose stricter standards. Why did some states impose strict standards but others did not? Emily threw a lot of spaghetti at the wall, but none of it stuck. The question remains unanswered. That’s two “null results” papers in one panel.

Chris Mooney: The coolest guy in state politics. Received several well-deserved honors, including a giant red pen to commemorate his work as founding editor of State Politics and Policy Quarterly.

Dan Smith and Michael McDonald apparently make a LOT of money as expert witnesses in lawsuits. And Bob Erikson looks surprisingly like the late Senator Ted Kennedy.

Boris Shor will release his common-space scores of legislators’ ideal points later this summer after a publication in LSQ comes out. Woot! (See an example of what you can do with his data.) Jim Battista and Megan Gall are assembling demographic data for all 7,380 legislative districts by matching census tracts to districts. Sounds painstaking. No word yet on whether they’ll release the data publicly so that we can all freeride. Battista/Gall’s data combined with Shor’s could be awesome.

Read tweets sent during the conference by searching Twitter for hashtag #sppc.

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2 Comments

  1. Matthew Holden, Jr. Unregistered
    Posted June 8, 2010 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

    In one of the panels, the term “corruption” came up for discussion. Did any paper analyze “corruption” other than inference from the incidence of indictments? Can contemporary political science improve on Lincoln Steffens?

  2. Posted June 9, 2010 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    Yes, I remember that coming up. I don’t remember anybody measuring corruption other than by looking at indictments, which is sketchy. But it looks like I didn’t take many notes during that panel, so I can’t say for sure whether there was more to it.