This Election Day, Veterans Run For Office In Record Numbers

This Election Day, Veterans Run For Office In Record Numbers

For the first time since 1980, we may see an increase in the number of veterans serving in Congress. Veterans from the recent wars are running for office in record numbers; though less than 1 percent of the population has served in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, 38 House and four Senate candidates, all with war zone experience, are running for office.

Of the 189 veterans who have received their party’s Congressional nomination this year, between 92 to 100 are expected to win, unless there’s a surprise sweep of the House by Democrats in Republican-leaning districts.
The surge in veterans in the House would be a welcome change for those who have long lamented the falling off of vets serving in Congress, experts say; vets know how to lead in the face of adversity, and they have a frontline understanding of the effects of Washington’s foreign policy decisions.
From the 1960s to mid-1970s, veterans consisted of about three-fourths of the U.S. House, said Jeremy Teigen, an associate professor of political science at Ramapo College in New Jersey. But that number has now dwindled to about 25 percent, he said.

Democrat Chris Fields, a candidate for Minnesota’s 5th district House seat, served 21 years in the Marines and two extended tours in Iraq.  He campaigns as someone who understands “service and sacrifice” but doesn’t oversell that point.
“We don’t try to wrap ourselves in the flag and say the opposition is less patriotic because they didn’t go into the military service, because that, in my opinion, would be false,” he said.

In fact, Fields found that being a veteran can also be a distraction.
“You have to fight back the stereotype,” he said. “Some people will assume that if you’re a veteran, you want to spend more money on defense and will want to go to war longer … or they will think, because we don’t experience massive layoffs that you’re at a disadvantage in understanding” what the civilian population has been going through.
His response: “We are just as concerned about the debt, we are just as concerned about the deficit and about unemployment — and that’s because we’re all in this together,” he said.