2018 U.S. Midterm Elections
The Surge Comes to Washington
A new generation of military veterans is poised to sweep Congress.
The U.S. Congress could see the largest influx of military veterans in decades as a new generation of service members, many of them women, seeks higher office in elections on Tuesday.
More than 170 veterans are competing in congressional races across the country. In 28 of those races, former servicemembers have a realistic chance of winning and in another seven of the contests, veterans are strongly favored to win, according to Foreign Policy’s analysis of data provided by Military Times and the Cook Political Report.
For the first time, many of the most high-profile veteran candidates are women. Democrat Mikie Sherrill, a 46-year-old former federal prosecutor and mother of four who served as a helicopter pilot in the Navy, is running in New Jersey’s 11th Congressional District, which has not sent a Democrat to Congress since 1985. In Kentucky’s 6th District, Amy McGrath, the first female Marine to fly an F/A-18 fighter jet in combat, wasn’t even favored to win the primary, but her first political ad went viral online. Meanwhile, Arizona Republican Rep. Martha McSally, a former Air Force pilot who has championed veterans’ issues and helped save the beloved A-10 Warthog attack jet from the boneyard, is vying for a Senate seat.
So why are so many veterans running in this election? Jeremy Teigen, a political scientist at Ramapo College of New Jersey who wrote the book Why Veterans Run, believes both parties made more of a concerted effort in this cycle to recruit veteran candidates in races where they had a shot at winning, perhaps as an antidote to President Donald Trump. He pointed to the Serve America PAC of Rep. Seth Moulton, a Marine Corps veteran, as a critical source of cash and influence for many former service members.
Rep. Ruben Gallego, a Democrat from Arizona, agreed that Trump’s 2016 election and his foreign policy, particularly his coziness with Russian President Vladimir Putin, motivated many veterans to run for office.
“As a man who used medical and educational deferments to avoid military service [and] said misogynistic things about women … what better force to try to retake the House but women [vets]?” Teigen said.
Close Races Featuring Veteran Candidates
|Alaska At-Large District||Don Young (R), incumbent||Army, 1950s|
|Arizona Senate||Martha McSally (R), challenger||Air Force, 1980s-2010s|
|California 10th District||Jeff Denham (R), incumbent||Air Force, 1980s-2000s|
|California 25th District||Stephen Knight (R), incumbent||Army, 1980s-1990s|
|California 39th District||Gil Cisneros (D), challenger||Navy, 1990s-2000s|
|California 50th District||Duncan Hunter (R), incumbent||Marine Corps, 2000s-2010s|
|Colorado 6th District||Jason Crow (D), challenger||Army, 1990s-2000s|
|Colorado 6th District||Mike Coffman (R), incumbent||Army, 1970s; Marine Corps, 1970s-1990s, 2000s|
|Florida 6th District||Michael Waltz (R), challenger||Army, 1990s-2010s|
|Florida 16th District||Vern Buchanan (R), incumbent||Air Force, 1970s|
|Florida 18th District||Brian Mast (R), incumbent||Army, 2000s-2010s|
|Florida Senate||Bill Nelson (D), incumbent||Army, 1960s-1970s|
|Florida Senate||Rick Scott (R), challenger||Navy, 1970s|
|Illinois 12th District||Brendan Kelly (D), challenger||Navy, 2000s|
|Illinois 12th District||Mike Bost (R), incumbent||Marine Corps, 1970s-1980s|
|Kansas 2nd District||Steve Watkins (R), challenger||Army, 2000s-2010s|
|Kentucky 6th District||Amy McGrath (D), challenger||Marine Corps, 1990s-2010s|
|Maine 2nd District||Jared Golden (D), challenger||Marine Corps, 2000s|
|Minnesota 1st District||Dan Feehan (D), challenger||Army, 2000s|
|Nebraska 2nd District||Don Bacon (R), incumbent||Air Force, 1980s-2010s|
|New Jersey 11th District||Mikie Sherrill (D), challenger||Navy, 1990s-2000s|
|New York 11th District||Max Rose (D), challenger||Army, 2010s|
|North Carolina 9th District||Dan McCready (D), challenger||Marine Corps, 2000s|
|Pennsylvania 10th District||George Scott (D), challenger||Army, 1990s-2000s|
|Pennsylvania 16th District||Ron DiNicola (D), challenger||Marine Corps, 1970s|
|Texas 22nd District||Pete Olson (R), incumbent||Navy, 1980s-2000s|
|Texas 23rd District||Gina Ortiz Jones (D), challenger||Air Force, 2000s|
|Virginia 2nd District||Elaine Luria (D), challenger||Navy, 1990s-2010s|
|Virginia 2nd District||Scott Taylor (R), incumbent||Navy, 1990s-2000s|
|Virginia 5th District||Denver Riggleman (R), challenger||Air Force, 1990s-2000s|
|West Virginia 3rd District||Richard Ojeda (D), challenger||Army, 1980s-2010s|
|Wisconsin 1st District||Randy Bryce (D), challenger||Army, 1980s|
Races in Which Veterans Are Expected to Win
|Delaware Senate||Tom Carper (D), incumbent||Navy, 1960s-1990s|
|Mississippi Senate||Roger Wicker (R), incumbent||Air Force, 1970s-2000s|
|Minnesota 7th District||Collin Peterson (D), incumbent||Army, 1960s|
|Oklahoma 5th District||Steve Russell (R), incumbent||Army, 1980s-2000s|
|Pennsylvania 6th District||Chrissy Houlahan (D), challenger||Air Force, 1980s-2000s|
|Pennsylvania 14th District||Guy Reschenthaler (R), challenger||Navy, 2000s-2010s|
|Texas 2nd District||Daniel Crenshaw (R), challenger||Navy, 2000s-2010s|
Sources: The Cook Political Report and Military Times