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Study shows how many in Congress started in legislatures

By Northern Plains News

Before they hit the “big league” in Washington, D.C., how many legislators served in the “minor leagues” of Pierre, Bismarck, St. Paul, Lincoln, Cheyenne and Helena?

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Two-thirds of South Dakota’s congressional delegation previously “did time” in Pierre in the dead of winter in January and February.

For many of the Northern Plains states’ congressmen and women, according to a recent study by the Pew Charitable Trusts, many — but not all — U.S. senators and representatives from the region first learned their craft in a statehouse.

All of the three-person Wyoming delegation first served citizens in Cheyenne. Meanwhile, in North Dakota, none of the current three national legislators served in Bismarck.

Pew’s Statelineonline magazine noted:

“According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, about half of the current members of Congress spent some time in their state legislatures, a rate that has stayed remarkably stable for decades. There are 43 former state legislators in the U.S. Senate and 217 in the U.S. House of Representatives.”

The Pew’s breakdown by regional states:

  • South Dakota: 66 percent. (2 of 3: Democrat Sen. Tim Johnson and Republican Rep. Kristi Noem served in the South Dakota Legislature. Republican Sen. John Thune has not served in Pierre, but did work for a time there as a lobbyist.)
  • Nebraska: 40 percent.
  • Minnesota: 60 percent.
  • Iowa: 33 percent.
  • Montana: 33 percent.
  • Wyoming: 100 percent.
  • North Dakota: 0 percent.