Race and Resources in Brazilian Mayoral Elections

AuthorAndrew Janusz
Published date01 September 2022
Date01 September 2022
Subject MatterArticles
Political Research Quarterly
© 2021 University of Utah
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/10659129211032279
Which groups attain political representation is central to
the study of electoral politics. Despite free and fair elec-
tions, researchers commonly find that public officials do
not descriptively reflect the population they are elected to
represent (Bird, Saalfeld, and Wüst 2010; Ruedin 2009).
Differences between elected officials and the electorate
are concerning for a variety of reasons. They violate
norms of equality as well as impact the quality of democ-
racy (Mansbridge 1999; Phillips 1995). Moreover, mar-
ginalized groups that are not descriptively represented are
oftentimes not substantively represented either (Griffin
and Newman 2007; Grose 2011; Schwindt-Bayer and
Mishler 2005).
In Latin America, gaps in descriptive representation
are particularly pronounced. In democracies across the
region, elected politicians are predominantly male (Htun
2005, 2016; Schwindt-Bayer 2010, 2018), disproportion-
ately drawn from the top strata of society (Barnes and
Saxton 2019; Carnes and Lupu 2015), and overwhelm-
ingly white (Madrid 2012; Piscopo and Wylie 2020;
Yashar 2005). Much of what scholars know about descrip-
tive representation in Latin America comes from the
study of national assemblies, yet this is not the only polit-
ical arena in which gaps exist. The groups that are well-
represented at the national level typically dominate
electoral politics at the local level as well (Bueno and
Dunning 2017; Meireles and Rubim Andrade 2017;
Paredes and Došek 2020).
In Brazil, which is home to the largest African descen-
dant population outside of Africa, elected leaders at all
levels of government are disproportionately white (Bueno
and Dunning 2017). Some scholars attribute racial gaps
in representation to resource disparities between white
and Afro-Brazilian candidates (Bueno and Dunning
2017; Campos and Machado 2015, 2017; Oliveira 1995;
Strijbis and Völker 2020). In contrast, others contend that
voters discriminate against Afro-Brazilian candidates
(Fiola 1990; Janusz 2018; Mitchell-Walthour 2017). To
date, these competing explanations have largely been
tested using data from congressional elections. This arti-
cle contributes to this debate by extending this line of
research to local mayoral races.
Mayors possess substantial power in Brazil’s decen-
tralized federal system. They have discretion over the
municipal budget as well as public policy (Funk and
Philips 2019). Despite the political importance of may-
ors, there is a paucity of research on why Afro-Brazilians
seldom hold local executive office. This lacuna is partly
attributable to data limitations. In 2016, though, the
Brazilian government required political candidates to
racially classify themselves when they registered to run
32279PRQXXX10.1177/10659129211032279Political Research QuarterlyJanusz
1University of Florida, Gainesville, USA
Corresponding Author:
Andrew Janusz, University of Florida, 234 Anderson Hall, P.O. Box
117325, Gainesville, FL 32611-7325, USA.
Email: ajanusz@ufl.edu
Race and Resources in Brazilian
Mayoral Elections
Andrew Janusz1
Elected officials routinely do not reflect the racial diversity of the citizenry. In Latin America, these descriptive gaps
are particularly pronounced. A growing number of studies investigate the causes of racial disparities in representation,
however, extant research largely focuses on national assemblies. In this paper, I extend this well-trod line of research
to an understudied context, local elections. Using a dataset that covers mayoral elections in Brazil, I demonstrate
that multiple factors hinder Afro-Brazilians, who comprise a majority of the Brazilian population, from winning public
office. I show that barriers to candidate entry, resource disparities between white and Afro-Brazilian candidates, and
race-based preferences among voters contribute to racial inequality in political representation. These results indicate
that members of marginalized racial groups often must overcome multiple barriers to achieve electoral success.
race, campaign resources, elections, Brazil, mayors, representation
2022, Vol. 75(3) 846–859

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