Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science

First Committee Member

Rebecca Gill

Second Committee Member

Michele Kuenzi

Third Committee Member

David Damore

Fourth Committee Member

Paul Traudt

Number of Pages



While rarely studied, primary elections have a tremendous affect on the general election. This effect can be magnified by institutional differences in the way primary and general elections operate in the states. In the case of judicial elections, the effects of the primary are further confounded by the differences in judicial selection systems across the states. My goal is to understand the role of the primary election as a stepping stone on the way to office. This dissertation endeavors to answer three questions: 1. What are the relevant differences between judicial primary election systems? 2. What influences challengers to emerge in judicial primary elections? 3. How do women move through judicial primary elections to the general election? Using a new, original dataset of judicial primary elections from 1990-2016, I isolated the relevant differences and identified five different types of primary elections held in judicial contests. Challengers are more likely to appear in races where the incumbent had faced challengers in prior primary elections. In the aggregate, women do not face systematic disadvantages in primary elections and win primary contests at high rates. These findings add to the scholarly understanding of judicial elections and prompt further studies on the role of the primary in state judicial and legislative elections.


challenger emergence; election; gender; judicial election; primary election; state supreme court


Law | Political Science

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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