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Old 08-03-2019, 12:37 PM
Walken After Midnight is offline
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Running for Congress: Senator vs Representative


If someone wants to run for office in the U.S. Congress, what factors influence whether they run for a Senate position or House of Representatives position?
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Old 08-03-2019, 01:44 PM
Exapno Mapcase is offline
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It depends, it depends, it depends.

Very generally, the biggest difference is that is most states, a representative is local to an area, while the senators are elected by the whole state. (Of course, in the lowest population states with only one representative, this distinction doesn't hold.)

Therefore, running for senator normally requires far more name recognition and boatloads more money. In New York, e.g., those running as a representative can probably get away with $1,000,000 but it cost Chuck Schumer $25,000,000. Getting to the point of running is also a more difficult process. You have to win over the state political leaders or pull off an amazing upset in a state-wide primacy. A candidate for the House just needs to win over local party leaders and probably already has those ties.

The Senate, because it is so much smaller, is now considered to be a step up from the House. You'll regularly see sitting Representatives run for the Senate but never the other way around. (That happened in the early days of the U.S., before Senators were elected by the people, but not much since the 17th Amendment.)

So, more prestigious, harder to get into, more publicity opportunities, more opportunities to advance legislation, more likely to be a launching pad for a Presidential bid, a shinier object all around.
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Old 08-03-2019, 01:52 PM
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It's also worth noting that because so many districts are "safe" for a particular party, in most cases running for the House means needing to win a primary--which means appealing to party leadership and people that are very active in politics. While some senate seats are also "safe", it's generally more necessary for a prospective senator to appeal to the electorate, not just party faithfuls. People will also cross the aisle to vote for a senate candidate they feel strongly about--states not uncommonly elect senators and governors from different parties. People are a lot more likely to vote straight ticket on a house race.
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Old 08-03-2019, 02:12 PM
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I was in college at the University of Florida in the late 1990s, and representative Karen Thurman came to speak to my political science class. Somebody asked her if she’d ever consider running for the US Senate. In response, she laughed.

“I’m not a millionaire,” she told us, “I was a school teacher before politics. The senate is for millionaires.”

Last edited by Moriarty; 08-03-2019 at 02:13 PM.
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Old 08-06-2019, 10:03 AM
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Thanks for the replies.
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Old 08-06-2019, 10:59 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Exapno Mapcase View Post
It depends, it depends, it depends.

Very generally, the biggest difference is that is most states, a representative is local to an area, while the senators are elected by the whole state. (Of course, in the lowest population states with only one representative, this distinction doesn't hold.)

~snip~

So, more prestigious, harder to get into, more publicity opportunities, more opportunities to advance legislation, more likely to be a launching pad for a Presidential bid, a shinier object all around.
Maybe not worth a whole other topic, but I'm curious how representatives are viewed in low pop states. Are they seen as more prestigious because there's only one of them in the state? Or less prestigious because they're still just one of 435 and only serve 2 year terms.
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Old 08-06-2019, 01:45 PM
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Even in low-population states, you'll see Representatives running for a Senate seat, but not the other way around. Though it probably is a bit easier in such states to make the jump from Representative to either Senator or Governor.
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Old 08-06-2019, 02:42 PM
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Being a senator is always more prestigious. For one thing the term is three times as long. Representatives are constantly running for reelection. Senators spend 2/3 of their term without running. Even in states without representation, this makes a huge difference. In PA, where I grew up, it often happened that the mayor of Philly then ran for governor and, if successful, for the senate. Governors in those days were limited to one term.
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Old 08-06-2019, 04:22 PM
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Originally Posted by Chronos View Post
Even in low-population states, you'll see Representatives running for a Senate seat, but not the other way around. Though it probably is a bit easier in such states to make the jump from Representative to either Senator or Governor.
Bernie Sanders and Jim Jeffords are recent examples of this. Both served as Vermont's sole Representative in the House before becoming one of Vermont's two Senators. (Sanders filled the office that Jeffords was leaving in both cases.)
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Old 08-06-2019, 04:24 PM
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As a tangential question, I'm wondering what leads some people to pick the senate over the governorship. I know in my state and in various other states, politicians sometimes go back and forth between being governor and being senator. Both are a step up from being in the federal house of representatives, but I'm not sure of those two which is more prestigious. I don't know if politicians start in the senate then become governor or the other way around.

I would assume governor because, like the highlander, there can be only one while there are 2 senators.
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Last edited by Wesley Clark; 08-06-2019 at 04:25 PM.
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Old 08-06-2019, 04:32 PM
Exapno Mapcase is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wesley Clark View Post
As a tangential question, I'm wondering what leads some people to pick the senate over the governorship. I know in my state and in various other states, politicians sometimes go back and forth between being governor and being senator. Both are a step up from being in the federal house of representatives, but I'm not sure of those two which is more prestigious. I don't know if politicians start in the senate then become governor or the other way around.

I would assume governor because, like the highlander, there can be only one while there are 2 senators.
It depends. Yeah, I know.

Senators often have national reputations. Mitch McConnell is from Tennessee. Could you name the governor of Tennessee? Go wider. How many senators can you name compared to how many governors?

OTOH, you probably know the governor of your own state. Your governor spends enormous amounts of time making sure that their name is in the news for every thing the state does that is positive. And the governor in most states has enormous ability to ensure that friends and donors get contracts, jobs, opportunities, and attention that ordinary folks don't. Governors also have far more power to get bills passed.

So it depends on the particular state, and the powers of the particular governor, and the status of the political party, and when the election is, and which position the donors want to give money for, and the usual million other reasons.
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Old 08-06-2019, 04:32 PM
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I think that governor is overall considered slightly more prestigious, if nothing else because it's widely considered a better position from which to run for President. But while a Senator is a Senator, not all governors are alike: Some are granted more power than others within their states, some states are bigger than others (and being governor of a big state means more power than being governor of a small state, all else being equal), and some states have term limits for governor, as well as varying term lengths.
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Old 08-08-2019, 04:49 PM
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Another factor in favor of going Senator to Governor: In some states you get to hand pick your replacement in the Senate.

This happened in 1990 in California when Senator Pete Wilson became Governor 2 years into his second Senate term. He then got to name his replacement for 2 years. The replacement, whose name I've forgotten, had to run in 1992 to finish the final 2 years of the term (lost to Dianne Feinstein, who had lost the governor's race to Wilson 2 years earlier).
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Old 08-08-2019, 08:47 PM
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Running for Congress: Senator vs Representative


Quote:
Originally Posted by Exapno Mapcase View Post
Senators often have national reputations. Mitch McConnell is from Tennessee. Could you name the governor of Tennessee?

Psssst: Kentucky!





So much for national reputation.
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Last edited by Northern Piper; 08-08-2019 at 08:48 PM.
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Old 08-08-2019, 09:58 PM
Exapno Mapcase is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Northern Piper View Post
Psssst: Kentucky!
There's a difference?

Quote:
So much for national reputation.
So much for my memory, you mean.
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