About Me

Welcome! I am a PhD Candidate in the Department of Political Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I earned my M.A. in Political Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2018 and my B.A. in Political Science and International Affairs from the University of Georgia in 2016. My research interests include American politics, U.S. Congress, political parties, and elections. Most recently, my research has focused on how differences in gender and political experience affect candidate self-presentation in primary elections. This work is forthcoming in Political Research Quarterly.

In my dissertation, I explore the dynamics of modern campaigns for the House of Representatives. I demonstrate that in today’s party-driven, nationalized elections congressional candidates still run on the local projects and problems important to district constituents. To illustrate some of the ways candidates “go local” in modern campaigns, I employ an original data set of text from congressional campaign websites. This collection of over 29,000 policy positions from nearly 4,000 candidate websites constitutes the first comprehensive data set of congressional campaign text on issue positions. Employing these data, I investigate if and how candidates discuss important issues-of-the-day like the Opioid Epidemic and the #MeToo movement in terms of their local constituency. This research is supported by the Social Science Research Council’s Social Data Dissertation Fellowship, which funds projects that make creative use of social data to investigate democracy.

I am on the 2020-2021 academic job market. Feel free to contact me at rachsur@live.unc.edu