You want to run for Congress? Why?


Lansing Mayor Andy Schor’s decision to pass on a congressional run punctuates a problem Democrats may have going into the 2024 cycle.

With U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin running for the U.S. Senate, who will run to face, presumably, Republican Tom Barrett of Charlotte in this 7th Congressional District? More important, who would want to run for Congress?

Being a member of Congress is alluring. It’s a huge ego stroke. You believe you’re going to be a big player on the big stage.

Eventually, the mystique evaporates. Reality sets in, as it did with Schor. When a potential candidate really looks at what’s involved in running for this $174,000-a-year job, the personal sacrifice, for folks like Schor, isn’t worth it.

Running in this 50/50 competitive congressional seat is at least a 20-to 25-hour a week job at this point, if you’re doing it right. A year from now it’s a full-time job. From there, it consumes your life.

You’re shaking down people for money, garnering interest group support and getting your grassroots team in order. 

It’s a lot of travel. Every vote in every community is important in a 50/50 district. As the weather warms up, every town has a festival. Durand has its Railroad Days in May. St. Johns has its Mint Festival in mid-August.

The calendar fills up quickly. Night and weekends quickly disappear.

Schedules for those with full-time jobs get pinched. Schor said he wasn’t going to let his duties at the city of Lansing slip, so running from Congress would have meant taking time away from his wife and kids. He wasn’t interested in doing that.

But let’s say you can make it work financially. Your job is flexible. Your spouse is 100% on board. You have back-up plans to help with the kids if you still have kids at home.

Health ailments? A weak heart? A lot of pre-existing conditions? Addictions? Mental health issues? Forget about it. Running a good campaign will grind you down. Look at poor John Fetterman in Pennsylvania.

Hobbies? Those will go out the window.

With the 7th Congressional District a nationally targeted seat, a full and complete public colonoscopy will be done on your public record by multiple entities. All of your social media and public speaking engagements will be scrubbed for verbal faux pas. Bankruptcy? Arrested for something stupid as a college kid? Spotty voting history? 

It’s all coming back. Hundreds of thousands of dollars will be spent trumping up and likely twisting your most embarrassing moment and spreading it all over network TV, web pages and mailers. 

This is after research teams shopped the story to national, state and news outlets.

Then there’s the outside pressure. Your party is counting on you. The loss of your seat could be the one seat that flips control of the U.S. House. Every day you’re on. Working the plan. 

The national House campaign committee wants a report on fundraising numbers. The media is squeezing for more media interviews. Media makes you uncomfortable? Better find a good media consultant to make you comfortable.

Better stay up on the news, too. You can’t bumble your answer to a question. Always assume someone is recording you on the phone.

This is your life for the next 600 days. Oh, and you’re not getting paid for it, unless you pay yourself out of your campaign account, which is frowned upon.

Let’s say you win. Congratulations. You’re now commuting two hours each way to and from Washington each week, if you fly out of Lansing. 

You’ll be spending at least three days a week away from your family and friends indefinitely. When you are back home, it’s more meet-and-greets. It’s more events. More press conferences. The campaigning doesn’t really end when you need to run every two years.

I haven’t even gotten into the partisan nature of the job. How you’re a small cog in a much, much, much bigger wheel. 

Once you got through everything, the question quickly becomes not why Schor didn’t run, but why would anyone want to.


(Email Kyle Melinn of the Capitol News Service MIRS at melinnky@gmail.com.)


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