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All Politics Is Organizational: An Analysis of Candidate Recruitment and Political Influence in Pennsylvania School Board Elections

Nathan R. Shrader


This article seeks to enhance the limited research dedicated to local school board elections by investigating whether Pennsylvania school board members are recruited candidates or are self-starters. The article also investigates which kinds of organizations are the most active sources of candidate recruitment and engagement in Pennsylvania school board races and which organizations are the most and least influential in local school board politics. Using a unique dataset obtained through the statewide Pennsylvania School Board Survey and interviews with current state legislators who began their political careers as local school board members, this article finds that local political party organizations play a larger than expected role in influencing local school board elections and recruiting candidates. Board members themselves are also found to be highly engaged in political party activity within their communities before ever seeking office. Also explored are the implications of these findings for school board politics and the discipline’s view of local party organizations. 

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