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Somebody has to run for Congress; why not you?

Jack Lessenberry

How would you like to serve in Congress? Oh, I know it is a lot of pressure. Still, you get paid a decent salary – $174,000 a year. That may be less than it sounds. Usually, you have to live in two places – Washington, D.C., and the district you claim to represent.

However, there are a lot of perks, like free mailing privileges, a staff and usually an entourage. While there is a fair amount of mind-numbingly dull committee work, and addressing Kiwanis Club meetings in Central Downtown Nowheresville, you do get to cast votes on important legislation affecting the nation.

There is a catch, however. You have to reapply for your job every two years, and it can be a nasty process, especially in a competitive district. First, opponents from your own party say nasty things about you, and you have to spend a lot of money saying things about them, or at least telling the voters how great you are.

If you survive that and emerge from the primary election in August, you then get to do it all over again for the next three months with a single opponent from the other party. The whole process can cost millions. Still, a lot of people evidently think it is worth it. I am mentioning this all today because if you want to run this year, this is your last chance.

You’ve got till four o'clock tomorrow afternoon to collect a thousand valid signatures and file them with the secretary of state’s office.

These have to be real signatures from eligible voters, now, so don’t try to cheat. Congressman Thad McCotter got bounced off the ballot two years ago when lazy staffers tried to submit photocopied signatures. They also got in a heap of legal trouble.

Getting a thousand signatures in a day may be a little difficult, but you never know. If you ever wanted to run, this may be the time. Leaving aside the open Senate race, three longtime incumbents are retiring – John Dingell, Mike Rogers, and Dave Camp. Plus, Gary Peters is leaving his seat to run for the Senate.

There is one catch. The Dingell and Peters seats are overwhelmingly Democratic; the Camp and Rogers seats, heavily Republican. But if you don’t live in one of those districts, don’t despair. You don’t even have to pretend to live in a place to be elected to Congress from it.

Gary Peters didn’t live in his district when he was elected two years ago. Now, true, it may be a little hard to get a thousand signatures by tomorrow.

But there’s another possibility. If you want to run as an independent, you have till July 22 to collect 3,000 signatures. Independents seldom win, but you might.

If you do, well, the party of your choice would be glad to have you. Here’s a note of warning. Don’t expect to have a lot of clout when you first get to Washington.

You will be one of 435, and thanks to the seniority system, you aren’t going to have much power. Still, you’ll be a congressman.

As for the rest of us, well, we just get to decide who will serve.