The military is our country’s most trusted institution by a wide margin.
Military officers are trusted even more than doctors and school teachers. However, veteran representation in Congress has been falling for decades.
Our current Congress, the 117th, has the lowest number of veteran representatives – just 91 out of 535 or 17% – since the start of World War II. Getting more vets elected is especially important in this moment of fractious politics.
Vets share a strong bond that transcends party lines – they can help to heal political divisiveness.
2022 Midterm Elections
A lot is on the line in the 2022 midterm elections. Republicans are trying to regain their grip on power in Washington.
In 2016, Republicans won the White House and both Houses of Congress, an electoral trifecta. But in the 2018 midterms Democrats reclaimed the House of Representatives. Then in 2020, Democrats regained control of the White House and the Senate as well, completing a trifecta of their own. But their margins in the House are small and are even smaller in the Senate.
Democrats want to not just hold on to their majorities but expand them.
2022 Key Election Battles
Key election battles are playing out in three states: Texas, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Texas has been a Republican stronghold for decades. The Democrat presidential candidate has not carried the state since Jimmy Carter won it in 1976. However, changing demographics in the state are changing the electoral map. Once a solidly red state, Texas is increasingly purple. Beto O’Rourke is trying to become the first Democrat governor of the state in 28 years. He will face Republican incumbent Greg Abbott. Beto ran for the Senate in 2018 but lost narrowly to Ted Cruz.
The competition is fierce down-ballot too, where there are a number of veterans running to represent Texas in the House:
John Lira is a Marine Corps veteran running for the House in Texas’ 23rd District. A native of San Antonio, John enlisted right out of high school. He had two tours of duty in Iraq – in 2003 with the 1st Marine Division at the launch of Operation Iraqi Freedom. In 2005 he was deployed to Al Anbar Province with the 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines. After 11.5 years on active duty and in the reserves, he used the G.I. Bill to continue his education, obtaining a master’s degree in Public Policy and Management from Carnegie Mellon University. He then spent six years working at three federal agencies in D.C., specifically programs focused on veterans and public service. In 2020, he was a legislative fellow managing the national defense, international affairs, and veteran policy portfolios for Rep. Jimmy Panetta (CA-20).
Jessica Mason is a Navy veteran running for the House in Texas’ 30th District. She was born and raised in South Dallas, where poverty prevented her from pursuing a college education. The Navy gave her the opportunity to advance herself. She served five years in the medic counseling service, where she helped fellow vets struggling with the mental toll of war, the trauma of sexual harassment and assault, and substance abuse.
Ruben Ramirez is an Army veteran running for the House in Texas’ 15th District. He was born in the Rio Grande Valley and grew up in Edinburg, Texas. Despite very humble beginnings, he worked hard and earned his degree from what is today called the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. After graduating, he taught chemistry and physics at the high school in his hometown before enlisting. He was deployed to Afghanistan, where he was recognized with a battlefield promotion and a Bronze Star for leadership. He was honorably discharged and attained a law degree from the University of Houston Law Center while still raising his young family. He now works as a trial lawyer representing his neighbors in the Rio Grande Valley.
Ohio has long been a key swing state, and this election is no different. More campaign money is flooding into the state than perhaps anywhere else. The governorship is on the ballot, and with Sen. Rob Portman’s retirement, so is an open Senate seat. A number of House seats are also being heavily contested.
Jeff Sites is an Army veteran running for the House in Ohio’s 4th District. He followed in his father’s footsteps and enlisted out of high school. He served for 13 years – two years as an MP then as a unit armorer, attaining the rank of E-4 corporal. He was honorably discharged and, as a military spouse, worked as a police officer at the Department of Defense. He then went into the private sector and worked his way up from forklift driver to supervisor.
Next door to Ohio is Pennsylvania, a truly purple state. Obama carried the state twice. Trump won it in 2016, then Biden won it in 2020. The governorship flips between the parties; currently it is held by Tom Wolf. The state’s 18 House seats are split evenly between Democrats and Republicans. One Senator is a Democrat, the other, Pat Toomey, a Republican. Sen. Toomey is not seeking reelection, and Democrats see a huge opportunity to pick up a much-needed seat in the Senate. Polls show that it is a tight race.
One of the leading Democratic candidates is Conor Lamb, a Marine Corps veteran who currently represents Pennsylvania’s 17th District in the House. From 2009 to 2013, he was on active duty before going on to become a Major in the Marine Corps Reserves. He received his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Pennsylvania. Before being elected to Congress, he served as the Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Justice Department’s Pittsburgh Office. In the House, he is Chair of the Congressional Steel Caucus as well as a member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, and the House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure.
Chrissy Houlahan is seeking election as Pennsylvania’s 6th District Representative in the House. She is the first woman to hold that office. Rep. Houlahan is an Air Force veteran. On an ROTC scholarship, she earned an engineering degree from Stanford followed by an M.S. in Technology and Policy from MIT. As a Teach for America Fellow, she taught high school chemistry in North Philadelphia. She led a non-profit that helps thousands of underserved students all across America build their literacy skills, and she has helped lead several thriving Southeastern Pennsylvania companies.
These are momentous midterm elections. Although Democrats hold control of the House, Senate, and the White House, their efforts to pass legislation have been stymied. At a minimum, they want to preserve their razor thin margins but ideally, they would expand them. Against them are the Republicans, who want to regain the control that they lost over the last two election cycles.
Although elections can be fiercely competitive, their aim is always to find the candidate that will best represent and serve the people who elect them. Veterans served our country, and by running for office, veteran candidates are working hard to have the opportunity to continue to serve.
Image Credit: Photo by Ashutosh Nandeshwar on Unsplash