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The Voter’s Speakeasy featuring unbiased reporting and insight into life at Vote Smart from our staff, interns, and volunteers.

Congressional Beginnings

2011 October 06 - Carly Griffin

"The beginning is the most important part of the work." - Plato Do you ever wonder where your Representative or Senator got their start in the political arena? Often we're introduced to these people only while they're on the campaign trail, but for most Congressional candidates, this isn't their first rodeo. Join us as we look briefly at how local-level government has helped to begin careers in Congress for many of our elected officials. The most popular starting place for a member of Congress is their state's legislature. Of our 535 members of Congress, 180 began their political careers this way. On the other hand, 126 members of Congress started their political careers by running for Congress (and winning). After that, 53 members began in government as part of a city council or as mayor. The next most popular way to start a political career is to become a member of a county board or other county governing group; 27 members of Congress kicked off their journey to the Capitol by doing so. Finally, 26 members of Congress began their political careers with an unsuccessful run for Congress, which may just go to show that attempting a goal or aspiration may pay off in the long run. The Constitution states that a Representative must be 25 years old and a Senator must be 30 years old when they are seated, but most don't get into politics until much later. The average age of a Representative or Senator when they ...

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