Latino Descriptive Representation in Municipal Government: An Analysis of Latino Mayors
Marschall, Melissa J.
Doctor of Philosophy
Various questions regarding Latinos’ descriptive representation in the mayoralty are examined in this dissertation including: Where and why are Latino mayors elected? Why do Latino mayoral candidates emerge and win? And, is there is a link between Latino ethnicity and electoral outcomes in municipal elections? The empirical results of a cross-sectional analysis of U.S. cities from 1981-2006 suggest that institutions such as term limits and mayor-council governments influence the representation of Latinos in the mayoralty. These effects, however, are conditioned by Latinos’ numerical strength in a city – which suggests that Latino descriptive representation in the mayoralty is largely a function of population size. Despite the prominence of this factor, the results further reveal that Latinos need to swell the ranks of the city council to provide a steady supply of qualified Latino candidates to ultimately win the mayoralty. An analysis of 648 mayoral elections in 113 cities in the Southwest further tests theories of Latino candidate emergence and success based on city-level factors – that supply elections with Latino candidates – as well as strategic factors in elections – that influence Latino candidates’ cost-benefit decision calculus. The results reveal a combined effect of supply and strategy on candidate emergence and success. For example, in cities where Latinos are sizeable (+40 percent) and the electoral context is more competitive (i.e., where turnout is high, more candidates are on the ballot, and when incumbents are not vying for reelection), Latino candidates are more likely to emerge. A similar pattern occurs with regard to the success of Latino candidates except that the individual candidate’s previous political experience is particularly influential in improving their chances of winning. Given the theoretical expectation regarding the impact of ethnicity on electoral outcomes in municipal elections, I also examine whether Latino ethnicity shapes turnout rates and the margin of victory. Latino ethnicity is not statistically associated with these outcomes. However, other factors such as the election timing and the type of election (i.e., runoff election, open seat) seem to be more influential. In sum, the research here examines various aspects of Latino representation in the mayoralty that is the most comprehensive to date.