It Takes a [Latina] Candidate: Discovering the Motivations That Lead Latina Elected Officials to Run for Office

Graduation Year


Publication Date

Spring 4-22-2016


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In the United States, women and racial minorities continue to face serious obstacles to entering elected office, particularly above the local level. This has serious consequences for democratic participation and legitimacy and may affect the substantive representation of issues that concern women of color. Studies show that many eligible women list the following as deterrents from running for office: low political confidence, perceived risks associated with running, a lack of support, and a lack of interest in running for higher office. But do Latina candidates, as members of an underrepresented gender and a marginalized racial minority, face unique challenges when compared to non-minority women or Latino males? This study builds on the research on women and Latinos in politics and attempts to garner an in-depth understanding of the Latina candidate's experience through interviews with Latina elected officials at various levels of government in Illinois. This study finds that familial support is of critical importance for Latina candidates but that identification and encouragement from party gatekeepers plays the key role in determining whether a Latina will step forward to seek office.


Political Science

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