One of the toughest things to do in campaigns is knock off an incumbent. In 2008, Mark Schauer of Michigan's seventh district did just that.
How did he do it? From The Almanac of American Politics:
[Schauer] spent more than a decade organizing in south central Michigan, representing both local government and advocacy agencies...He served as a city commissioner in his hometown of Battle Creek for two years before launching his first successful run for the state House in 1996 in a Republican-leaning district. He served two terms in the state House and then won election to the Michigan Senate.
Schauer volunteered for Habitat for Humanity, the children's museum in Albion, the local food bank and the urban league. He received a 2003 "public official of the year" award from Habitat for Humanity for his volunteer service.
That's an impressive resume to launch a congressional campaign. It should also serve as an example of how to get elected: you don't go for the gold in your first run. Start small - volunteer in your community, serve on a local board, get on the school board or appointed to a county or city board or commission.
Running for office is an unknown. You have to ask a lot of people to help you out with their money and their time. That ask is a lot easier when you've spent a decade helping others in your community.
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