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A candidate, or nominee, is the prospective recipient of an award or honor, or a person seeking or being considered for some kind of position; for example:
- to be elected to an office — in this case a candidate selection procedure occurs.
- to receive membership in a group
"Nomination" is part of the process of selecting a candidate for either election to an office by a political party,1 or the bestowing of an honor or award. This person is called a "nominee,"2 though nominee often is used interchangeably with "candidate." "Presumptive nominee" is a term used when a person or organization believes that the nomination is inevitable. The act of being a candidate in a race for either a party nomination or for electoral office is called a "candidacy."3
"Candidate" is a derivative of the Latin "candida" (white).4 In Ancient Rome, people running for political office would usually wear togas chalked and bleached to be bright white at speeches, debates, conventions, and other public functions.5
In the context of elections for public office in a representational partisan democracy, a candidate who has been selected by a political party is normally said to be the nominee of that party. The party's selection (that is, the nomination) is typically accomplished either based on one or more primary elections according to the rules of the party and any applicable election laws.1
Candidates also may be described as "incumbents", if they are already serving in the office for which they are seeking re-election or "challengers", if they are seeking to unseat an incumbent.
In the context of elections for public office in a direct democracy, a candidate can be nominated by any eligible person—and if parliamentary procedures are used, the nomination has to be seconded, i.e., receive agreement from a second person.
In some non-partisan representative systems (e.g., administrative elections of the Bahá'í Faith), no nominations (or campaigning, electioneering, etc.) take place at all, with voters free to choose any person at the time of voting—with some possible exceptions such as through a minimum age requirement—in the jurisdiction. In such cases, it is not required (or even possible) that the members of the electorate be familiar with all of the eligible persons in their area, though such systems may involve indirect elections at larger geographic levels to ensure that some first-hand familiarity among potential electees can exist at these levels (i.e., among the elected delegates).
The presumptive nominee, in the politics of the United States, is the candidate who has not yet received the official nomination of their political party at the party's nominating convention, but who is the undisputed front-runner and is widely, or even unanimously, presumed to be the candidate that party will nominate. The term is applied widely on the national level, notably in regard to the U.S. presidential nominating conventions and the statewide level.
A candidate may be considered a presumptive nominee after all other major competitors have dropped out and it is considered unlikely that the candidate will withdraw, be usurped, or be otherwise removed from the race. Alternatively, in presidential elections, a candidate may be deemed the presumptive nominee after having accumulated enough delegate commitments through the primary elections and caucuses to be virtually assured of the eventual nomination at the convention.6
The age of candidacy refers to the minimum age at which a person can legally qualify to hold certain elected government offices. The United States Constitution sets minimum age requirements, as do state constitutions.
In the United States, a person must be at least thirty-five years of age to be President or Vice President, thirty years of age to be a senator, or twenty-five years of age to be a representative, as specified in the United States Constitution.7
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- Judicial and Statutory Definitions of Words and Phrases, Volume 1, Edition 2, West Publishing Company, 1914, p. 588 p. 618
- "Nominee". Merriam Webster. Retrieved 2012-11-07.
- "Candidacy". Merriam Webster. Retrieved 2012-11-07.
- "Candidate". Merriam Webster. Retrieved 2012-11-07.
- "Candidate". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 2012-11-07.
- Wiessler, David (March 4, 2008) "FACTBOX: Presidential political terms", Reuters.com. Retrieved December 1, 2009.
- "Age of Candidacy Law & Legal Definition". USLegal.com. Retrieved 2012-11-07.