How to Become a Legislator

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Legislators draft bills and work to get them enacted for their constituents. A legislator's job is to represent the people of a district or state and is elected to serve at the federal, state and local levels. The road to becoming a legislator can be challenging, but taking certain steps can get you on the right path.

Starting with the Right Stuff

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the typical educational level for a legislator is a bachelor’s degree. While a degree is not a requirement, it can provide the right background and knowledge to begin a political career. Consider degrees in political science, business or law to hone your knowledge of the political system, economics and society.

Become Involved in Local Politics

One of the first steps you can take to becoming a legislator is to get involved in local politics. Choose a political party that most embodies your belief system and volunteer to help. As you become more active in the party, you will usually have a chance to take on greater responsibilities. Once you become well known in the community, the party may recruit you as a candidate or you may announce your decision that you want to run.

Having The Basic Qualifications

Each state has its own set of qualifications for running as a legislator, so you'll need to research the requirements you must meet to run. For example, you would need to live in Iowa for at least a year and reside in the district you wish to represent for at least 60 days before the election if you wanted to be an Iowa legislator. If you were to run for legislative office in Georgia, however, you need to live in the state for two years and live as a resident in the district you wish to represent for at least one year prior to the election. You can get this information from your local state board of elections or state secretary.

Shake a Lot of Hands, Kiss a Lot of Babies

Once you are officially on the ballot, the real work begins. Candidates typically turn to their friends and family to help get the word out about their candidacy. This is also done by attending political rallies, running television and radio ads, making phone calls to possible supporters, and putting up campaign signs. Running for office can be really expensive, so prepare to spend a good deal of time fundraising to keep your campaign going.

Surviving the Primary

During the primary, or rather, first phase of voting, candidates generally run against others in their party to determine the nominee. If you win, you have made it past your first major hurdle and are on your way to becoming a legislator. Campaigning and fundraising continue until the general election which typically determines the final winner.

Crossing the Finish Line

To win the general election to become a legislator, you must receive at least 50 percent of the votes plus one. If no candidate gets at least 50 percent of the vote, then you'll advance to a runoff election to determine the winner. This final election typically takes place a few weeks after the general election. Once you win the runoff, the race is declared officially over and you are ready to head to the legislature.