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Please begin with an informative title:

Brad Schneider is a businessman and the newly-elected Democratic nominee in IL-10 to face Bob Dold in perhaps the most Democratic House seat currently held by a Republican.  Much of the discussion in the primary was on Schneider's donations to Republicans and on the youth and inexperience of his opponent, 25-year-old Ilya Sheyman.  We've had a fairly grueling discussion on Daily Kos Elections about whether or not Schneider had the "right profile" to beat Dold.  But I think Schneider's inexperience is as notable as Sheyman's, in an under-appreciated way.

Intro

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Schneider has a fairly impressive record of community involvement and philanthropy, but basically, he's a businessman who hasn't just never run for elected office--as far as I know, he's never worked in government, never worked as a staffer, never worked on a campaign, and has never been an ideological or party activist.  

I might be wrong about that, and let me know if I am, but I still think this is an interesting question: Do candidates with that "profile" really have an impressive electoral track record?  To find out, let's look at those candidates who have been first elected to the Congress in the last few elections.  I've eliminated those who had previously run for elected office, including past campaigns for the seat they eventually won, and noted the political experience or engagement of those who remain.

2000:

Let's start with those first elected in 2000, or later elected to the 107th:

Bill Shuster:  A special case, as he succeeded his father.

Brad Carson: Carson was "a White House Fellow, where he was assigned to The Pentagon as a Special Assistant to the Secretary of Defense."

Jeff Flake: Flake was "Executive Director of the Goldwater Institute".

Ric Keller: Lawyer; nothing political listed on Wikipedia.  Edit: Keller also "did help write two state constitutional amendments on cleaning up the Florida Everglades. One, the 'Polluter Pays' amendment, which passed by a wide margin, said sugar companies should help finance restoration of the Everglades."   

Mark Kennedy: CFO[whoops!]; Nothing political listed.  Edit: Apparently "[f]our generations of Minnesota Kennedy’s have served in elective office", including Mark's father Eugene, who "Served on [the] Pequot Lakes School Board for 27 years".

Brian D. Kerns: Kerns "was an aide to Representative Edward A. Pease and served as his chief of staff."

Tom Osborne: No apparent political involvement, but a state celebrity as a coach.

Jim Matheson: Another special case, as part of a political dynasty.   

Mark Kirk: "Kirk worked on the staff of John Porter, the former holder of Illinois’s 10th congressional district. From 1991 to 1993, Kirk was the Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of State in the U.S. State Department. [...] In 1995, Kirk was named as a counsel to the House International Relations Committee. He remained counsel to the House International Relations Committee until 1999."

I would only consider Kennedy and Keller comparable candidates.

2002:

Moving on to the next Congress:

Stephanie Herseth: Once again, something of a political dynasty, and "Herseth worked as a law clerk to Judge Charles B. Kornmann of the United States District Court for the District of South Dakota and Judge Diana Gribbon Motz on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. [...] Prior to her election to the House, she was Executive Director of the South Dakota Farmer's Union Foundation,and served on the board of directors for First Bank and Trust of Brookings, South Dakota."   

Tim Bishop:  Bishop "served as the long-time Provost of Southampton College, where he began working in 1973 as an admissions counselor. During his 29 years at the college, he served in administrative positions touching almost every aspect of college life, from institutional research and planning, to financial aid and enrollment services, student activities, personnel, community relations and fundraising."

Jo Bonner: Bonner "work[ed] as campaign press secretary for U.S. Congressman Sonny Callahan, a Republican representing Alabama's 1st congressional district. In 1989, Bonner was promoted to Callahan's chief of staff and moved to Mobile."

Michael Burgess: "Burgess, who had never held any public office and voted in the Democratic primaries in 1990, 1992, and 1994,[3] entered in the 2002 Republican primary election to replace U.S. Congressman and House Majority Leader Richard Armey. The district, comprising the majority of Denton County, was strongly Republican.

Using the campaign slogan "My dad is NOT Dick Armey",[3] and with the endorsement of multiple medical Political Action Committees and the support of organizations like the National Beer Wholesalers Association,[4] Burgess took second place in the primary behind Congressman Armey's son, finishing with 23% of the vote to Armey's 45%. Armey's failure to capture a 50% majority led to a runoff election. Before the runoff, the Dallas Morning News released a series of articles alleging that Armey used his influence as a judge to procure county jobs and contracts for his friends. The report strongly hurt his campaign and Burgess won the runoff by a 55% to 45% margin."

Rahm Emanuel: Do I really need a quote here?   

Bob Beauprez: Beauprez had been "chairman of the Colorado Republican Party".

Denise Majette: Majette was "appointed by Governor Zell Miller to the State Court of DeKalb County in 1993."   

John Kline: "Kline was a 25-year veteran of the United States Marine Corps, where he was a senior military aide to Presidents Carter and Reagan and was responsible for carrying the President's "Football". During his military career, Kline served as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam, commanded all Marine aviation forces in Operation Restore Hope in Somalia, flew "Marine One," the Presidential helicopter, and served as Program Development Officer at Headquarters Marine Corps."

Jeb Hensarling: Hensarling "was State Director for Texas Senator Phil Gramm from 1985 until 1989. From 1991 to 1993, he served as executive director of the Republican Senatorial Committee."   

Linda Sánchez: Another political family, but Sánchez also "was an attorney specializing in labor law prior to her public service career. In 1998, she joined the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 441 and became a compliance officer. In 2000 she was unanimously elected to the position of Executive Secretary/Treasurer of the Orange County Central Labor Council."

Rick Renzi: Renzi was a businessman, but he also (allegedly?  It's his own statement) "served our nation overseas on a Defense Department program", and "he was also an unpaid intern in Senator Jon Kyl's office for two months in 1999, and in 2001 he spent several months as an unpaid intern for Representative Jim Kolbe."

I would consider Burgess the closest match here.

2004:

What about the next Congress?

Doris Matsui: Another family connection, but Matsui also "was a volunteer on the Clinton for President campaign. When he was elected, Matsui served on his transition team. Following the inauguration, she was appointed deputy special assistant to the president and deputy director of public liaison, working under Alexis Herman. One of her duties was to work with the Asian American community.[citation needed] The President appointed her to the board of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in September 2000.
She served in the White House from 1993 to 1998."

Tom Price: Doctor; Nothing listed on Wikipedia.  Edit: Though it is oddly neglected in his Wikipedia profile, Price "was a member of the Georgia State Senate from 1997 to 2005, serving as minority whip from 1999 to 2003 and majority leader from 2003 to 2005."

Dan Lipinski   : Yet another political family, but Lipinski also "interned at the United States Department of Labor. He served in that same capacity for U.S. Congressman George E. Sangmeister from 1993 to 1995. From 1995 to 1996, he served as a legislative staff member for U.S. Congressman Jerry Costello. During the 1996 election season, he served on the campaign, and later the transition staff, for Cook County State's Attorney Richard A. Devine. After a short stint on the staff of then-U.S. Congressman Rod Blagojevich, Lipinski served as a communication staff aide to then-House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt."

Charles Boustany: Nothing listed, although Boustany's father "served [as a Democrat] for sixteen years as coroner of Lafayette Parish."

Mike McCaul: McCaul "worked as an attorney and a federal prosecutor before entering politics. He was the Chief of Counterterrorism and National Security for Texas's branch of the US Attorney's office also worked under the Department of Justice's Public Integrity Section. McCaul was appointed Deputy Attorney General in 1998 and served in this capacity until 2002."

Mike Conaway: Conaway, "from 1981 to 1986 was the chief financial officer of Arbusto Energy Inc, an oil and gas exploration firm operated by George W. Bush.
Soon after Bush was elected governor of Texas, he appointed Conaway to the Texas State Board of Public Accountancy, which regulates accountancy in Texas. He served on the board as a volunteer for seven years, the last five as chairman.[citation needed]"

Closest match?  Tom Price, I'd say.

2006:

Next Congress?

Bill Foster: Foster spent "22 years at Fermilab [where] he participated in several projects, including [...] the management of the design and construction of a 3 km Anti-Proton Recycler Ring for the Main Injector."

Niki Tsongas: Another political family.

Chris Carney: "Carney served as a counterterrorism analyst for the Bush administration, under Douglas Feith in the Office of Special Plans and at the Defense Intelligence Agency, researching links between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein.[2]"  Strange as it may seem.

Vern Buchanan: Even Buchanan "served as state finance chair for Senator Mel Martinez's successful 2004 campaign. He was also co-chair of the Republican National Finance Committee."

Bruce Braley: "Braley served as president of the Iowa Trial Lawyers Association." Bobby Big Wheel pointed out this is something of a political gig.   

Jason Altmire: Altmire "worked in the Tallahassee campaign office of Douglas "Pete" Peterson, then a candidate for Congress in Florida's Second Congressional District.[5] He later earned a Master's in Health Administration from George Washington University in Washington, DC.
After Peterson won the 1990 congressional race against incumbent Republican Congressman Bill Grant, he hired Altmire to work in his Capitol Hill office. Altmire worked as a legislative assistant during Peterson's three terms in office (1991–1996), specializing in domestic policy issues.[6] He gained an expertise in health care issues and helped Peterson draft several major health care proposals. In 1993, Altmire was appointed to a working group for President Clinton's Task Force on National Health Care Reform.[7]"

Steve Kagen: To my surprise, a political family.  "Kagen's father, Marv, also a doctor, was an unsuccessful Democratic Congressional candidate in 1966. The younger Dr. Kagen performed extensive volunteer work for his father's campaign and cited his father's campaign as a major factor in his interest in politics."   

Dave Loebsack: "Loebsack started the Linn Phoenix group, a fundraising arm of the Linn County Democrats."

Tim Mahoney: Nothing listed.

Patrick Murphy: Murphy "work[ed] part-time as a legislative aide to a member of the Pennsylvania state legislature," and "in the office of the district attorney of Philadelphia", and "[w]hile in Baghdad as a JAG Corps attorney with the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division, [he] worked to reconstruct the justice system and helped prosecute Sheik Moyad, a lieutenant of Muqtada al-Sadr."

Phil Hare: Hare had run for delegate, and also "worked as an aide to [Rep.] Evans, assisting the congressman primarily on constituent issues and labor problems. In the last few years of Evans' time in Congress, Hare attended several speaking engagements and even debated Evans' opponents in 2002 and 2004 because of the congressman's Parkinson's disease, which often prevented Evans from participating in the engagements."

Kirsten Gillibrand: Aside from being from something of a political family, Gillibrand had "interned at Senator D'Amato's Albany office", had "serve[d] as a law clerk to Judge Roger Miner on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Albany", and "became involved in—and later the leader of—the Women's Leadership Forum, a program of the Democratic National Committee", and "served as Special Counsel to the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Andrew Cuomo during the last year of the Clinton administration", and "work[ed] on Hillary Clinton's 2000 US Senate campaign."

Tim Walz: Not a lot listed, although he did apparently train at Camp Wellstone.

Carol Shea-Porter: I had to see it in this Wiki page, not her own, but Shea-Porter was the "Rochester Democratic chair", which I also see here, along with "Shea-Porter worked for senior centers, led an effort to bring affordable housing to her community, and helped create a social service agency that served the local homeless and poor" and a reference to "her work on presidential campaigns".

Heath Shuler: No apparent political involvement that I know of, but something of a celebrity.

Joe Sestak: Sestak was, of course, a high-ranking Naval administrator.

John Sarbanes: Yet another political family, and Sarbanes "was co-chair of the [Harvard] Law School Democrats, in 1988.[1]
After college, [he] clerked with Baltimore Judge J. Frederick Motz on the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland."

John Yarmuth: Yarmuth "work[ed] for U.S. Senator Marlow Cook from 1971 to 1975", and also "was best known for founding the weekly paper, Louisville Eccentric Observer (LEO), in 1990 and for writing a progressive-oriented weekly political column that was featured on the first page of most issues."  

I think Mahoney is a good match.  Some people say Walz is, but I don't really see it.

2008:

Next Congress?

Mark Critz: Critz, as many of us know, "was the district director for the 12th's longtime congressman, John Murtha."

Bill Owens: Not a lot here, but "[i]n 2004, he was appointed by Governor George Pataki to the College Council at [the State University of New York at Plattsburgh.]"   

Scott Murphy: In addition to his career as a businessman, Murphy had "also worked as an aide, Deputy Chief of Staff, and fundraiser for former Governors of Missouri Mel Carnahan and Roger B. Wilson."

Jason Chaffetz: "Chaffetz was the campaign manager for Utah gubernatorial candidate Jon Huntsman. Huntsman won the race and, after he took office in January 2005, Chaffetz became his chief of staff."

Joseph Cao: Apparently an activist.  "He decided to enter politics after seeing the government response to Hurricane Katrina, and soon became involved in leading New Orleans East residents to oppose a landfill." [And a former candidate!  See below.]

Duncan D. Hunter: Succeeded his father.

Chris Lee: Apparently, a "politically-active family", but not a lot.   

Betsy Markey: "In 1983 Markey was selected as a Presidential Management Fellow, a competitive two-year management program track in the federal government. [...] In 1984, during the Reagan Administration, she was recruited by the U.S. Department of State to develop computer security policies for the newly-formed Office of Information Systems Security. [...] Markey left the Department in 1988 at the GS-14 level. [...] Markey was hired as Regional Director of Colorado’s North Central and Eastern Plains for U.S. Senator Ken Salazar in January 2005."

Gregg Harper: Harper "was the prosecuting attorney for the cities of Brandon, Mississippi and Richland, Mississippi" but I don't know if that's an elected office or not.   

Alan Grayson: Grayson had been "a law clerk at the Colorado Supreme Court in 1983,[10] and at the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals from 1984 to 1985".  He was also an activist lawyer.  " In 2006, a Wall Street Journal reporter described Grayson as "waging a one-man war against contractor fraud in Iraq" and as a "fierce critic of the war in Iraq" whose car displayed bumper stickers such as "Bush lied, people died".[14]"

John C. Fleming: Nothing particularly political listed.

Tom Rooney: Rooney "worked for U.S. Senator Connie Mack III. After getting his Masters, he returned to Florida, where he went to work as an Assistant Attorney General."  He also had various appointments.

Tom Perriello: "Perriello was Special Advisor to the international prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, where he worked with child soldiers, amputees, and local pro-democracy groups, and helped to prosecute warlords.[6] He later became the Court's Spokesman and helped to indict Liberian dictator Charles Taylor, peacefully forcing him from power.[...] He helped to launch FaithfulAmerica.org, Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, and is a co-founder of DarfurGenocide.org and Avaaz.org, an international on-line community of 3.3 million members, operating in 12 languages, dedicated to building a global response to "problems without borders" such as climate change."

Pete Olson: Olson "joined Senator Gramm's staff in 1998. After Gramm's retirement from the U.S. Senate in 2002, Olson served as Chief of Staff to Gramm's successor"   

Kathy Dahlkemper: No political involvement listed, Edit: although per Ourcampaigns, Dahlkemper was "the director of (LEAF) and vice president of the LEAF Board of Directors. Since 1997, Dahlkemper has been responsible for securing over $2 million in public and private funding for the Arboretum and coordinates daily operations including programming, marketing, fundraising, site management and collaboration with government, civic and private partners."  I'm not sure where the line between philanthropy and political engagement is in cases like this.

Glenn Nye: "Nye joined the U.S. State Department in 2001, where he served in Kosovo and Macedonia as a member of the Foreign Service."

2010: Deep breath.  This Congress will have a lot of people who hadn't been involved in Congress--but remember, some or many may have been ideological or Tea Party activists.

Dan Benishek Benishek was a doctor who "won the Republican primary against State Senator Jason Allen by 15 votes."

Larry Bucshon: Another doctor.

Chip Cravaack: Was he a Tea Party activist?  Nothing else listed.

Rick Crawford: Slim connection here, but Crawford "owned and operated the AgWatch Network, a farm news network heard on 39 radio stations".

Scott DesJarlais: Another doctor.

Bob Dold: "Dold was an intern in the administration of Vice President Dan Quayle. He also clerked for a New York State Judge and served as an investigative counsel for the Republican-led House Government Reform and Oversight Committee."

Renee Ellmers: Nurse and possible Tea Partier.

Blake Farenthold: Farenthold's family may have been political, but he also "co-hosted Lago in the Morning, a conservative talk radio program, until he began his political campaign."

Stephen Fincher: Farmer, nothing else really listed.

Chuck Fleischmann: Lawyer; nothing really listed.

Bill Flores: "Flores is a former Commissioner of the Texas Real Estate Commission", if we're counting that.

Chris Gibson: An Army Colonel who "led the 82nd Airborne Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team during the opening month of the humanitarian effort there" and "was a National Security fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University".

Paul Gosar: Rogue dentist and Tea Partier.

Tim Griffin: U.S. Attorney and political operative.

Michael Grimm: FBI Agent, which might not really count.

Richard Hanna: Businessman. [and mistake!  See below.]

Nan Hayworth: Doctor.

Bill Johnson: "As Director of the Air Force’s Chief Information Officer Staff at U.S. Special Operations Command, Johnson worked directly with senior congressional and Secretary of Defense representatives, as well as top leaders within the various U.S. intelligence communities, to ensure America’s Special Operations forces were adequately equipped to carry out critical national security missions."

James Lankford: Lankford was "Program Director of Falls Creek, the largest Christian camp in the U.S.", but nothing else political is listed.

Billy Long: Auctioneer.

Mike Pompeo:  "Pompeo serves as a trustee on the Koch Industries-funded Kansas Policy Institute (originally named the Kansas Public Policy Institute and then the Flint Hills Center for Public Policy), a conservative think tank."

Ben Quayle: Political family, of course.

Reid Ribble: Nothing political listed.  Edit: Although "In 2005, members of the National Roofing Contractors Association elected him to be president. [...He has served] as President of the Roofing Industry Alliance for Progress, the roofing industry’s national foundation."  Ribble may have been a lobbyist.

Scott Rigell: Businessman, nothing political listed.  Edit: Rigell "has financially supported and volunteered for dozens of local and statewide Virginia Republicans, including Bob McDonnell, George Allen, Mark Earley, Jim Gilmore and Oliver North. He was a founding member of the Tusk and Trunk Club and is a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association. Scott was appointed to the Motor Vehicle Dealer Board by Governor Allen."

Jon Runyan: Football player; nothing political listed.

Bobby Schilling: "Schilling was one of the 9-12 Candidates, a group led by Beck, and signed the 9-12 contract of principles and values."

Terri Sewell: A somewhat political family, and "Sewell served as a judicial law clerk in Birmingham, Alabama to the Honorable Chief Judge U.W. Clemon,[8] United States District Court (AL-ND), Alabama’s first black federal judge."

Steve Southerland: Southerland "was appointed by the Governor of Florida to be a member of the Florida Board of Funeral Directors, and had the distinct honor of serving as Chairman during his second term. He was appointed by the Governor of Florida to be Chairman of the Early Learning Coalition of Northwest Florida."   

Joe Walsh: Walsh "worked on state and local government policy issues for The Heartland Institute,[19] a libertarian free-market think tank based in Chicago. Walsh helped launch fiscally conservative organizations such as the Legislative Education Action Drive and the Americans for Limited Government; organization that are dedicated to limiting government and electing fiscal conservatives to state legislatures.[19] He also did consulting work with the United Republican Fund, an Illinois-state PAC helping to elect Republican state legislators.[19]"

Rob Woodall: Woodall, "[p]rior to being elected to congress, [] was the Chief of Staff to U.S. Congressman John Linder (R-GA)."

Todd Young: Young "briefly worked at The Heritage Foundation, a conservative public policy think-tank. Then he joined the staff of U.S. Senator Richard Lugar as a legislative assistant[4] for energy policy. In 2003, Young volunteered for Mitch Daniels' campaign for Governor of Indiana.
Young was a Delegate to the Indiana Republican State Convention and as a Vice Precinct Committeeman. In 2007, Indiana’s Young Republicans named Young the “Southern Man of the Year” for his leadership on behalf of the Republican Party in southern Indiana. In 2007, Young also founded a fiscal responsibility advocacy group, the National Organization for People vs. Irresponsible Government Spending."

Bob Turner: Turner, "[a]s a college student, [] took part in the politically conservative activist group, Young Americans for Freedom."

Phew!  I don't know who the best match to Schneider is.  Rigell?

Conclusion:

My feeling from various books that I've read is that most people in politics usually have it as a long-standing interest, with many political connections, associations, and activities.  Maybe they're volunteers, maybe they're staffers, maybe they're activists, but most people don't just dive into politics.

Perhaps I'm wrong about Schneider, and again, let me know if I am (I haven't looked too strenuously, to be honest, because I did want to gather the above list).  

But based on what I know of him, he's been less engaged in government, policy, and politics than many of the people on the above list, especially taking the Tea Party candidates as ideological activists, which I think makes sense in many cases.

As much as people might say that "candidates with a business background have the right profile", in reality, successful businessmen very often have some experience in elected office, government, or campaign or staff work.  Which makes sense!  How many people disengaged from politics would just suddenly run for Congress?

If I'm right, I have no idea if Schneider will pay an electoral cost--I doubt many people who voted for Scott Murphy knew he had worked for the Governor of Missouri--but I still think it's worth noting.  And, while Sheyman was indeed very young, I think his experience as a campaign activist wasn't that out of step with many of the above examples.

2:08 PM PT: Thanks to Setsuna Mudo for drawing my attention to it, but Richard Hanna shouldn't be on the list, since he was elected on his second try, and as I explained, I'm not counting candidacies like that.

3:58 PM PT: Darth Jeff points out in comments that Joseph Cao had been a candidate for both legislative and party offices.

Thu Mar 22, 2012 at  9:36 AM PT: Whitty, in comments, makes a number of corrections and additions about some of these candidates, which I will update.

Also importantly, David Nir let me know that Schneider had a role in AIPAC that went beyond writing checks, as mentioned in this news article on his website:

In 2000 Schneider was part of AIPAC’s New Leadership Network as a volunteer. He was raising money for members of Congress and candidates and developing relationships to explain the state of affairs in the Middle East. Then Rep. Barron Hill (D-IN) was part of Schneider’s responsibility.
See also a lengthier Schneider biography here:
Among his many current commitments, Brad is extensively involved with the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago; on the executive committee of the Chicago Region of the American Jewish Committee (AJC); and an active member of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), including a founding member of the New Leadership Network (NLN). He is a member of Moriah Congregation in Deerfield.

Brad has also served on the boards of Business and Professional People for the Public Interest (BPI) and the Family Firm Institute Midwest Chapter. He is a member of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and a participant in the "In Good Faith" program at Catholic Theological Union.

Brad was recipient of the Jewish Federation's Young Leadership Award in 2002. He is a Fellow of Leadership Greater Chicago (2003), as well as the Next Generation Project on US Global Policy (2007), and the Blaustein Institute of AJC (2007). He was recently selected as an AJC Comay Fellow for 2012. His very first public recognition was in 1986, receiving a Governor's Citation for his work with Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado.
I wasn't sure how much of that counted as political engagement as opposed to philanthropy, and I'm still not sure how extensive it was--as I said in a comment, I was looking for a role beyond writing checks, but it looks like the New Leadership Network was such a role.  

Take this diary, then, to be about trying to find successful candidates that fit the "profile" I thought Schneider had.


Extended (Optional)

Poll

Is Brad Schneider a good candidate?

53%57 votes
28%30 votes
17%19 votes

| 106 votes | Vote | Results

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