Charles Bass first ran for the 2nd District seat in 1980, finishing third in the GOP primary. He served three terms in the New Hampshire House, 1983-89, and two in the state Senate, 1989-93. He ran for re-election in 1992 but lost.
Bass won the 2nd District U.S. House seat in 1994 with 51 percent of the vote. He unseated two-term Democrat Dick Swett after casting himself as the only moderate in a GOP primary crowded with conservatives. He endorsed the "Contract With America" proposed by Rep. Newt Gingrich of Georgia that helped the GOP make big gains in 1994. Bass was re-elected in 1996 with 51 percent of the vote against Democrat Deborah Arnesen.
He won 53 percent of the vote in 1998, defeating Democrat Mary Rauh, and 56 percent of the vote in 2000 over Democrat Barney Brannen. Bass won his fifth term in 2002 with 57 percent of the vote over Democrat Katrina Swett, wife of former opponent Dick Swett. Bass won despite being outspent, especially in the final weeks of that race.