6 Jobs Senators Had Before Washington (And Might Be Voted Back To)
A large majority of U.S. senators were lawyers before they ended up on the road to politics; it’s the most common career path to transition into government, and is the reason that law schools were given such emphasis in affirmative action cases. Many others got their start as lobbyists or directing non-profits, something else in the political sphere. But there are some interesting and unique exceptions to this rule, and it’s both refreshing and sometimes bizarre to be reminded of the diverse backgrounds our lawmakers come from, especially at a time when 51 percent of respondents in an ABC/Washington Post poll say that they disapprove of the job their state representative is doing. This marks the first time dissatisfaction has reached above 50 percent in the last quarter century.
So here’s a list of some of the things our Senators did before they got in the business of disappointing constituents and fighting across aisles — and perhaps a list of professions a few may be returning to after midterm results come in.
1. Real Estate
Starting with the most tame employment first, there’s an awful lot of senators that started out in the real estate market. Republican Senator of Georgia Johnny Isakson began as a real estate broker in the family-owned business of Northside Realty. Senator Mary Landrieu (D-La.) also got her start in real estate, and her husband, also a real estate agent, just sold lobbyist Tony Podesta his nearly $1.5 million townhouse — according to The Huffington Post. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) owned a few real estate companies, but it wasn’t his only fish in the kettle.
Politicians in the medical profession seem to be particularly common. Senator John Boozman (R-Ark.) began as an Optometrist, and created a low vision program at Arkansas School for the Blind in Little Rock.
Rand Paul was actually an Opthalmologist prior to joining the Senate, although there’s been all sorts of hubub about how legitimate a doctor he really is, and on whether or not he’s legitimately certified or just self-certified by a self-created group called the National Ophthalmology Board within his state.
Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) was an Orthopedic surgeon before politics and worked for 24 years as a surgeon in Casper, acting as the President of the Wyoming Medical Society. Then, finally, there’s Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) who did his general surgery internship at St. Anthony’s Hospital and has, according to his website, delivered “more than 4,000 babies.”
Considering the number of PR nightmares politicians face all the time, it seems like background in journalism certainly can’t hurt men and women headed into the dangerous waters of politics. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) worked for a time as a journalist with the Pacific Sun doing political reporting, something the publication references every once in a while if you know where to look.
Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kans.) went to school for journalism and worked at a number of publications in Arizona before eventually co-owning a weekly paper called The Westsider.
Teaching turns out to be another big employment option in Senator’s previous lives. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) worked as a pre-school teacher at one point, Senator Bob Casey (D-Pa.) was a fifth grade teacher and basketball coach out of college, Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) was once a school teacher in Dover, and Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.) was a music teacher at F.E. Miley Elementary, and eventually was on the Big Sandy School Board. Finally, Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) is a self-proclaimed teacher, saying in a speech that, “As a former nursery school and middle school teacher, I know some of what it takes to bring order to class,” according to The New York Times. He was later criticized for not noting that his time as a teacher only extended for a year in a London private school and part-time work in a nursery school for work-study at Cornell.
Ranchers and farmers abound in the Senate. Senator Tester, also a teacher, comes up again, this time for running the same farm his grandparents had in 1912 alongside his wife.
Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho) was a rancher and farmer, as was Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), whose son now works the family farm, and Senator Deb Fischer (R-Nebr.) has said of herself, “As a family rancher, I know firsthand the challenges and responsibilities those in agriculture face.”
Last but not least, we have some of the stranger prior jobs Senators have held down all lumped into one final category. Senator Bernie Sanders (Progressive-Vt.) worked as a carpenter, a filmmaker, and a freelance writer before hopping into mayorhood. Senator Tim Kaine (D-Va.) was a Roman Catholic missionary, Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) worked at a meat packing plant before becoming a lawyer, and during his time in law school Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) worked as both a janitor and a metal lather. Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.) was a radio talk show host as well as a political satirist and comedian, and Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) was a baker for a time.
More From Politics Cheat Sheet:
- Cheat Sheet to 2014 GOP Senate Races: Georgia
- Here’s Why We Need More Women in Congress
- States Swerve Around Congress Into Minimum Wage Passing Lane
Follow Anthea Mitchell on Twitter @AntheaWSCS