About News Productive Politicians Fare Better in Primaries Mar 06, 2020 Sandy Hausman Productive Politicians Fare Better in Primaries Now that Super Tuesday is behind us, voters can look forward to another primary in the spring – this time for Congressional candidates. At the University of Virginia, a team of scholars has studied what factors make for a successful candidate and drawn some conclusions about this state’s congressional delegation. As a professor of public policy and politics at the Batten School and co-director of the Center for Effective Lawmaking, Craig Volden and his team spend a lot of time crunching numbers – trying to figure out which members of Congress take care of business in Washington. “We combine 15 metrics based on the bills they sponsor – how far those bills move through the lawmaking process and how important they are," he says. "There’s a tiny increase in our scores based on naming of a post office and a much larger one based on tackling the major issues of the day.” And – going back decades – they’ve looked to see who got re-elected. “For the fall elections, the general elections, there seems to be no pattern whatsoever. Effective and ineffective legislators are getting re-elected at about the same rate, but in the primaries coming up this spring we find a different story. Effective lawmakers do scare away primary challengers,” Volden explains. And how are Virginia’s current members of congress doing when it comes to getting things done? The longest-serving of them – Morgan Griffith – gets top grades for achieving his goals, but three newcomers are just getting started. Democrat Abby Spanberger is expected to face a strong challenge in the general election, but not in the primary. “She seems to be hitting the ground running, is at this point unopposed within her party and going to be strongly contested at the general election in the fall,” says Volden. Ben Cline has sponsored only three bills, but one of them (The Small Business Reorganization Act of 2019) made it through the legislative process and became law -- marking a rare achievement for a freshman in the minority party. Volden says Republican Denver Riggleman has also been fairly effective. “He’s put forward about a dozen bills, many of them receiving action in committee, which is uncommon for freshmen in the minority party and one that has already passed the house, so he seems to be at least starting to build up a legislative record.” Their scores will be posted when the current congressional session ends. Others are ranked at thelawmakers.org. Listen to the full interview with Craig Volden on WVTF. Craig Volden Craig Volden is a professor of public policy and politics, with appointments in the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy and the Woodrow Wilson Department of Politics. He studies legislative politics and the interaction among political institutions, including within American federalism. Read full bio Related Content Craig Volden Spatial Models of Legislative Effectiveness Research Spatial models of policymaking have evolved from the median voter theorem through the inclusion of institutional considerations such as political parties, committees, and various voting and amendment rules. Such models, however, implicitly assume that no policy is more effective than another at solving public policy problems and that all proposers are equally capable of advancing proposals. Party Calls and Reelection in the US Senate Research Minozzi and Volden advance the idea that a substantial portion of partisan voting activity in Congress is a simple call to unity that is especially easily embraced by ideological extremists. If correct, Minozzi and Volden’s findings should extend from the House to the Senate, despite differences in institutional structures and in tools at the disposal of party leaders across the two chambers. Scoring Effectiveness in Congress News What makes someone an effective lawmaker? Surprisingly, until Batten’s Craig Volden and Vanderbilt’s Alan Wiseman began discussing that question a little over a decade ago, we didn’t have a clear answer. Coronavirus policies spread quickly across the U.S. Are cities and states learning — or just copying? News As the novel coronavirus has spread across U.S. cities and states, so have public policies aimed at stopping the pandemic. Batten's Craig Volden and co-author Charles R. Shipan examine how some states have learned from others’ policy successes, while others simply copy their neighbors or even compete against them, and why that matters.