How Do I Run for Congress?

(In the Pit someone is lamenting the poor choices he has for congresscritter.)

So I got a couple of million in the bank, I can retire and move to Washington. Nobody f my party in my district wants to run. So how do I get on the ballot? How can I get the nomination of my party? Who is in charge of ballots anyway?

A fun little book about a sixth-grade teacher from Nevada who ran for Congress on a dare from her students is Ms. Cahill for Congress. It tells a little about the process of how she almost acidentially became the general election nominee for a non-competitive party.

(The taxi is about to take me to Bahrain. Then to Amsterdam, then Detroit, then home. Please excuse me if I do not reply to this thread for a day or so.)

The requirements to get on the ballot vary in each state. Some have a filing fee, some require you to gather petition signatures. The deadline for the 2012 election has passed in every state but Louisiana.

You must also be at least 25 years old to take office in the House, 30 for the Senate. You must also live in the district you represent by the time you take office.

ETA And you have to have been a US citizen for at least seven years.

The Constitution just says you have to live in the state. States may be stricter, and if you live far (culturally or geographically) from your district it doesn’t look good even if it’s legal.

I know a couple of the members of the San Diego Democratic Central Committee; sometimes, they actually have to go out and ask people to run – specifically in “safe Republican” districts, where the Democratic candidate is merely “showing the flag.” Morituri candidates. The Central Committee are the ones who specifically say that a candidate is a Democrat.

However, there are ways around it. In San Diego, we have a history of “LaRouche Democrats,” who aren’t “real Democrats,” but run as Democrats anyway.

So, as with many things, there is more than one path to the goal.

If states can’t add term limits to the qualifications, I don’t think they can add extra residency requirements either.

This site says residency requirements are “almost non existent.”

This surprised me; I had thought Congressional districts had strict residency requirements.

The example of this not being true that I find to be pretty amusing is Alan West is represented by Debbie Wasserman Schultz. He does not live in the district he represents nor did he ever. He does live pretty close though.

The constitutional requirement is you must be from the state you’re running in.

State legislatures may have stricter rules on residency (within a district you want to contest), it has come up in a number of races here in the San Antonio area of Texas, but seems it is often hard to legally prove you don’t live where you claim to if you really want to stick to that story.

It also gives rise to redistricting hijinks. It’s impossible to get rid of a member of Congress just by putting his or her home in the “wrong” district (at least from a legal perspective), but it’s definitely possible in state legislatures with residency requirements. After the next census, a particularly hated state legislator might find that an unfriendly district suddenly has a tentacle taking in his or her home.

One really weird thing about residency requirements is that the Constitution says that one must reside in the state “when elected.” I heard about a perennial candidate who wanted to run in a California district despite living in Nevada. California elections officials wouldn’t let him on the ballot and he sued and won because he said he was planning to move to California and would be an inhabitant of California at the time of the election.

Here’s a link to the case law:

That’s one hell of a taxi.

I worked with a guy who was the candidate for the Republican Party in a safe Democratic district. He ran the network cables in our building, so as he was crawling under my desk he was telling me about running for congress. He was active in their small Republican Party organization, so I guess it was his turn.

The lesson is - get active in the local party organization.

I have arrived home safely and I thank you for all the comments.

Welcome home. And let us know if you decide to run. :slight_smile:


Paul in Qatar '014

You can get the paper work from state/county/city/town offices. An election board or similar department will be the most use. But your best bet is to get involved in local politics. Pick one of the parties. The election board will tell you who to talk to. Go to one of their meetings, tell people your story, but don’t let on specifics about any issue. Tell them you might be interested in runnng for office some day. Don’t be specific about that either. Offer to help the party, then do it. You’ll be tested because there are a lot people hanging around who didn’t get to run, because rational people don’t want them to, and they won’t be thrilled about the new guy getting attention. But once you have their trust, tell them you want to run. Be prepared to tell them where you’re getting the money you need to do that. The hard part comes after that. They’ll try to tell you what to do. They’re right 50% of the time. Your job as a smart politician is to know which times they’re right, and which times they’re not. Best of luck to you.

Think about when the Constitution was written, and the travel situation of the time. it could take weeks to get from somewhere on the wild frontier (like Ohio or Michigan) to Washington DC.

I am amazed at all the laws about campaign finance. I wonder how far one can advance before he has to have a lawyer to keep him out of jail. Can you get to the House with just an ad-hoc group of advisors? The Senate? I wonder when you have to be a “professional.”