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How to Become a State Representative
State representatives are public servants who are elected to office by the voters in their districts. By serving as representatives in state government, they are responsible for representing the interests of their constituents and for upholding the laws and the constitution of their state. The path to a state representative position varies by state, but generally it requires a good amount of networking and self promotion.
The job of state representatives includes proposing bills that can become laws. Members of both the House of Representatives or a state's Senate can introduce bills, and – except for Nebraska, which has a single house – both houses must approve bills. Once passed, bills are either signed into law or vetoed by the governor. State legislatures also vote on the annual budget proposed by the governor.
Education and Background
No formal education or experience is required to become a state legislator. However, a candidate for elected office should have professional experience related to the post he is seeking. A degree in law or in political science often leads to a political career. States may impose specific requirements regarding minimum age and residency. In New Hampshire, for example, a candidate must be at least 18 years old by the date of the primary election and must have been a resident of the state for two years by the date of the general election.
To become a state representative, educate yourself on the issues important to the people of your state and your region, and – unless you prefer to remain independent – join a political party that most represents your beliefs. Look for volunteer openings or job opportunities in local political party organizations, or work on a campaign for a candidate. Run for the local school board or apply to serve on a municipal entity, such as a planning or zoning board. Run for offices within the party, such as committeeman. Seek the backing of your party to run for a higher local office, such as town council. Learn about campaign finance laws and begin fundraising.
Check the Laws and Procedures
Contact your state board of elections to learn how to get your name on the ballot. Typically, the state may require a petition consisting of a number of signatures equal to a percentage of the number of votes cast in a preceding election. A candidate must meet a filing deadline and pay a fee. Once you meet the qualifications, you can embark on a campaign of personal appearances, telephone canvassing, fliers and, if the budget allows, television and radio advertising to make your policies and platform known to voters.
- Project Vote Smart: Government 101: State Governments
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Working in Politics
- Political Science Career: Career as a Politician
- New Hampshire Liberty Alliance: Becoming a State Representative
- Local Victory: How to Get Involved with Your Local Political Party
- USA.gov: State Government
As a long-time newspaper reporter and staff writer, Kay Bosworth covered real estate development and business for publications in northern New Jersey. Her extensive career included serving as editor of a business education magazine for the McGraw-Hill Book Company. The Kentucky native earned a BA from Transylvania University in Lexington.
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