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As an example, in my own state of Washington, the Republican party nominated Loren Culp:

Culp has been married for 43 years and has two grown children. He was raised in Jefferson County. He dropped out of high school and later got a GED.

He ran a construction business in the Olympia area for 20 years, then at the age of 49 decided he wanted to go into law enforcement. Culp attended the state police academy and was hired in Republic, a town of about 1,000 people located 300 miles east of Seattle.

He held various positions in the police department before rising to chief. But a series of budget cuts in Republic mean he is the only policeman in town.

Someone who dropped out of high school is a widely unusual candidate for Governor and it seems like the Republican party simply didn't bother getting someone with better credentials to participate in the primary. Is this a common occurrence in heavily Democrat/Republican states? While Culp's odds were certainly very low in this election, surely one could expect the Republican party to still try and find the best possible candidate for the job?

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    This happens in my state but it seems that it is not the party recruiting the guy but the guy stepping into the void. – Damila Nov 17 '20 at 21:22
  • @Damila correct, all candidates are chosen in primaries. But surely party leadership could try and find high quality candidates even if the race is a long shot? I.e. in Washington they could've found some moderate right-wing businessman from Seattle to maximize their odds. – JonathanReez Nov 17 '20 at 21:25
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    Washingtonian here, too! IMO, the Republican party was always going to have a difficult time finding a candidate with similar qualifications, different enough views, and sufficient broad appeal to counteract Inslee's relative popularity over his last two terms. In this age of partisan politics, a blue-collar small business owner turned police chief is most compelling for the other end of the political spectrum given his contrast to Inslee, who briefly attended Stanford and has been in government for the past thirty years – Punintended Nov 17 '20 at 21:31
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    High school drop outs can make effective politicians: See John Major. – James K Nov 17 '20 at 21:52
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The Republican party did promote some more legitimate candidates in the 2020 Washington Governors race – I heard a lot of buzz around Joshua Freed and Raul Garcia, not to mention perennial ballot-initiative gadfly Tim Eyman, but in the end Loren Culp was the one that Republicans (or more accurately, anyone who didn't want to vote for Inslee) wanted.

In this case, I think it's a product of the fact that the large number of Republican candidates in the non-partisan primary split the anti-Inslee vote. Culp had a small, but highly devoted base (Culp signs were everywhere once you get out on the Olympic peninsula, and I assume Eastern Washington is the same) which got him into second place with only 17.4% of the vote.

I should add, for those who are unfamiliar, that Washington State uses a non-partisan top-two primary, where all the candidates run together and the top two candidates go on to the general election. This gives the parties much less control over the candidates than in a closed primary, as anyone, not just party members, can vote in it.

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Usually the main criterion for a party fielding a long-shot race's candidate is the ability to self-fund. No party wants to dump money into a losing race. Everyone needs maximum Return-On-Investment to stretch donations. Races (mainly ads) are very expensive.

In terms of the partisanship of such candidates, you are correct they tend towards the edge more than the middle. Often times they are running as personal promotion; authors, entertainers, talk show hosts, those looking to get state party leadership positions, etc.

For those kind of disposable candidacies, a drab candidate is a forgettable candidate, which defeats the point of all their efforts. For their purpose, it's better to lose by a lot but turn on a pool of true believers than to lose by a little having never made a splash.

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