Mahurin Honors College Capstone Experience/Thesis Projects


Political Science

Document Type



Much has been written about barriers that lead to unequal representation, focusing largely on situational characteristics of the individual voter (socioeconomic status, efficacy, socialization, etc.) and on structural (institutional) obstacles to voter turnout and participation. However, political participation is inclusive of more than just voting. This research seeks to identify and analyze the factors that contribute to or hinder the ability of marginalized candidates to run for public office. To explore whether or not marginalized candidates face unique obstacles when running for public office, a qualitative approach with one-on-one interviews between a convenience sampling in Kentucky of ten political candidates was utilized. According to previous literature and similar to the findings of this paper, marginalized groups experience unique obstacles when running for public office; specifically contextual, structural, and psychological factors. In addition, variables preventing equal representation and damaging the “electability” of marginalized candidates were largely variables that exclusively affected marginalized candidates. This research has implications for raising awareness of the obstacles these marginalized candidates face, specifically providing analysis in the state of Kentucky that may provide a foundation for a broader analysis of discrimination in southern states. Building upon previous research findings, this paper challenges our government and society to implement strategies and affirmative actions to equalize the playing field in electoral politics for marginalized candidates and communities.

Advisor(s) or Committee Chair

Saundra Ardrey, Ph.D.


Other Political Science | Political Science | Public Administration