Could the Average Joe Nab a Seat at the Statehouse?

By Max Resnik

May 10, 2012 Updated May 10, 2012 at 6:17 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) – The qualifications for running for a state office are easy to meet, but that does not necessarily mean it is easy to get into office.

In the Hoosier State, running to be a state representative or state senator requires the candidate to be a citizen of the United States, have lived in Indiana for at least two years and to have lived in the district that will be represented for at least one year. State senators are to be at least 25-years-old, while state representatives need to be at least 21-years-old.

With just those qualifications, it is conceivable that anyone could run for office, but given the amount of time spent at the Statehouse, and the amount of time that would have to be sacrificed from a day job, limits are put on who can run, says Andy Downs with the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics.

“If you're somebody turning a wrench on a shop floor, to use an old expression, it's going to be harder for your employer to say, 'Yes go away,' then if you're the supervisor or someone who works in HR or something else that you can do after hours, in the evening, at night, that you can do on the weekends.”

Indiana’s legislature, in odd numbered years, meets from the beginning of the year until the end of April. That is typically a year in which they are forming the state’s budget. In even numbered years, the legislature meets through mid-March. Legislators are paid as part-time employees, making about $22,000 each year in addition to $152 per diem to cover costs of food and living.

Based on those conditions, says Downs, most members of the legislature are in managerial, partnership or executive positions that allow for greater flexibility. Those positions also lend themselves to salary-based pay with large networks of similar potential backers.

"If your network includes business owners, managers, high wage earners, it’s easier to ask them for $1,000, $1,500, maybe even $2,500 to support your campaign. If you are somebody who's working an hourly job getting paid $10 or 15 bucks an hour, maybe even 20 bucks an hour, it's a little harder to go up to your friends and say, 'Hey would you mind giving me 500 bucks? I want to run for office.' Let alone 2,500 bucks.”

Want to compare Indiana to states around the country? Under Related Links, check out each state’s legislative salaries and session lengths.

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