Parachute candidate

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A parachute candidate, also known as a “carpetbagger” in the United States, is a pejorative term[1] for an election candidate who does not live in and has little connection to the area they are running to represent. The allegation is thus that the candidate is being “parachuted in” for the job by a desperate political party that has no reliable talent indigenous to the district or state or that the party (or the candidate himself/herself) wishes to give a candidate an easier election than would happen in one's own home area.

United States[edit]

U.S. Senate[edit]

  • Former U.S. Senator Scott Brown ran unsuccessfully as a Republican for U.S. Senate in 2014 in New Hampshire, despite having previously represented Massachusetts in the Senate as recently as two years prior. Brown's family had previously resided in New Hampshire, and he personally owns a vacation home in the state.
  • Former Reagan administration diplomat Alan Keyes, a resident of Maryland, ran unsuccessfully as a Republican during the 2004 Illinois U.S. Senate election.[2]
  • First Lady Hillary Clinton successfully became a Senator from New York after having bought a house in Chappaqua, New York (a wealthy NYC suburb) in 1999, prior to the 2000 election. She had previously resided in Arkansas.
  • Former U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy was elected to the U.S. Senate in New York in 1964, serving from 1965 until his death on June 6, 1968. He had previously resided in his home state of Massachusetts, although as a child he had also lived in the New York City neighborhood of Riverdale as well as Bronxville, a suburb north of New York City. During the campaign, Kennedy gave a speech in response to criticisms from his opponents over his alleged lack of ties to the state.
  • Comedian Al Franken successfully ran for the US Senate in Minnesota in 2008, after the Minnesota Supreme Court declared him the winner of a contested recount. Franken had spent several years as a radio host at Air America in New York City, but was raised in Minnesota and returned to the state after making plans to become a candidate. The narrow margin and contested nature of the election's outcome led many conservatives to accuse Franken of stealing the election.

U.S. House of Representatives[edit]


Former DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe, despite having not held any political office or position in Virginia won election in 2013 to become Virginia's 72nd Governor.

House of Commons of Canada[edit]

New Zealand House of Representatives[edit]

In 2017 Deborah Russell won selection for the safe Labour seat of New Lynn, in south-east Auckland despite being from Whangamomona, a small town in the Manawatu-Wanganui region. She beat out Greg Presland a New Lynn resident for 30 years who had the backing of the local members but lost to Russell who was backed by Labour's Council because of her finance expertise and a pledge to have more women in electorates. Upon winning selection Russell moved to the electorate.[6][7]

House of Commons of the United Kingdom[edit]

  • Shaun Woodward MP defected from the Conservatives to Labour in 1999. He faced much criticism from former Conservative colleagues, particularly when he refused to resign and fight a by-election.[8][9] Woodward did not run for re-election in his safe Conservative seat of Witney in Oxfordshire, instead being selected for the ultra-safe Labour seat of St Helens South in Merseyside. Labour Minister Chris Mullin wrote later in his diaries that "the New Labour elite parachuting [Woodward] into a safe seat ... [was] one of New Labour's vilest stitch-ups ... [it] made my flesh creep."[10]
  • Luciana Berger has been considered emblematic of the New Labour policy of parachuting middle-class southerners into safe seats in traditional Labour heartlands such as the northern working-class seat of Liverpool Wavertree. She was heavily criticised for having no connection to the Wavertree constituency or Liverpool when she first ran in 2010. When asked by a local radio station to answer basic questions about Liverpool she was unable to, and during the candidate selection process stayed at local MP Jane Kennedy's house rather than make any permanent home in the area. The media raised suggestions that she was only selected for the seat because of her close connections to the Blair family.[11] She went on to win the seat in 2010 and retain it in 2015 and 2017. Since joining the Liberal Democrats in 2019, she has announced she will contest the Greater London seat of Finchley and Golders Green at the next general election. She made the decision because of the seat's high Jewish population and remain vote, as well as her affinity towards living in London and choice to raise her children there, rather than in Liverpool.[12][13]
  • David and Ed Miliband were selected to fight safe Labour seats in northern England, South Shields and Doncaster North respectively, despite being Oxford graduates who were born, raised, and living in London whilst working as political advisers. Both would later serve as cabinet ministers and fight against each other in the 2010 party leadership election.
  • Douglas Carswell MP defected from the Conservatives to the UK Independence Party in 2014, in turn displacing the existing UKIP candidate in his constituency of Clacton. Given Carswell was living in London at the time, he was accused carpetbagging by the former UKIP candidate.[14]
  • George Galloway MP was expelled from Labour in 2003 and, despite previously representing Glasgow Kelvin, did not contest a Glasgow seat in 2005. Instead, he stood for the Respect Party in the Greater London constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow, where he used his opposition to the Iraq War and the local Muslim population to gain the seat from Labour. Tottenham MP and Constitutional Affairs Minister David Lammy said he was a carpetbagger who had whipped up racial tensions.[15] After losing Bethnal Green and Bow in 2010, he had a two year hiatus from parliament. In a 2012 by-election, he stood for Respect in the West Yorkshire seat of Bradford West, also with a high local Muslim population, where he made a point of not drinking and again gained the seat from Labour.[16] He lost Bradford West in 2015 to Labour's Naz Shah, after a divisive campaign.[17] Since then, he has made further attempts to parachute himself into constituencies in order to return to parliament. He contested Manchester Gorton in 2017 as an independent, but the seat was held for Labour by MEP Afzal Khan.[18] He attempted to be selected as the Brexit Party candidate in the Cambridgeshire seat of Peterborough in a 2019 by-election, but the party selected local businessman Mike Greene.[19][20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "NDP criticized for running parachute candidate in Labrador". CBC News. 19 September 2008. Retrieved 24 Feb 2015.
  2. ^ " - Illinois GOP offers Senate nod to Alan Keyes - Aug 5, 2004".
  3. ^ "Meet The Carpetbagging Tea Partier Who Could Be W. Va.'s Newest Rep".
  4. ^ Missing or empty |title= (help)
  5. ^ "John Ivison: Justin Trudeau parachutes 'star' candidate Chrystia Freeland into safe Toronto Centre".
  6. ^ Trevett, Claire (25 January 2017). "Battle to replace Labour's David Cunliffe in New Lynn heats up". The New Zealand Herald.
  7. ^ Ali, Mahvash (6 March 2017). "The "Taranaki girl" who wants to win over New Lynn".
  8. ^ "Fallout grows over Tory turncoat". BBC News. 20 December 1999. Archived from the original on 13 April 2014. Retrieved 12 April 2014.
  9. ^ "Top Tory defects to Labour". The Guardian. 19 December 1999. Archived from the original on 13 April 2014. Retrieved 12 April 2012.
  10. ^ Chris Mullin (2009). A View From The Foothills: The Diaries of Chris Mullin. ISBN 978-1-84668-223-0.
  11. ^ "Crash landing for Labour candidate parachuted into Liverpool". 23 April 2010.
  12. ^ "Luciana Berger to stand for Lib Dems in Finchley and Golders Green". Retrieved 2019-10-01.
  13. ^ "Lib Dems recruit Luciana Berger to stand in north London seat". Evening Standard. 2019-09-26. Retrieved 2019-10-01.
  14. ^ "'Douglas Carswell is a gutless coward' says ousted UKIP candidate Roger Lord".
  15. ^ "George Galloway Vs Jeremy Paxman & David Lammy Election 2005". YouTube.
  16. ^ Gilligan, Andrew (2012-03-30). "A runaway victory for George Galloway – and all praise to Allah". Daily Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 2019-06-29.
  17. ^ Sky News (2015-05-10), Special Report: The Battle For Bradford West, retrieved 2019-06-29
  18. ^ "Manchester Gorton parliamentary constituency - Election 2017". Retrieved 2019-06-29.
  19. ^ "Brexit candidates may split Peterborough vote after jailed MP ousted". Evening Standard. 2019-05-02. Retrieved 2019-06-29.
  20. ^ "Secret Millionaire Mike Greene revealed as Brexit Party Peterborough by-election candidate". Retrieved 2019-06-29.