Veteran representation in our branches of government has seen an alarming decline in recent decades. During a time in which foreign policy as well as domestic stability are both on the center stage of the political battlefield, there is a strong need for more veterans to step up into the “second service” of civic duty.
But running for any office, local or national, can be a daunting and intimidating ask for even the most decorated, bravest soldier. The political arena is completely uncharted territory for most veterans, and as much as they may have a desire to serve the public in a different way, it can be difficult to know where to begin.
Fortunately, there are several organizations dedicated to the education, mentorship, and preparation of veteran candidates as they step onto the campaign trail. A strong support network is a vital ingredient to the success of a political campaign, and that support can come from the organizations whose primary purpose is the backing of veteran candidates.
One such organization working tirelessly to help veterans running for office is Veterans Campaign, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that has established itself as a resource for the education and preparation of veterans for political office. Beginning in 2009, the Veterans Campaign began hosting Campaign Training Workshops that focus on preparing veterans who are interested in running for election. By teaching the necessary foundational skills during these weekend sessions, Veterans Campaign hopes to illuminate the path forward for these potential candidates and make their support known.
Veterans Campaign has also partnered with the University of San Francisco to offer an “executive format” Masters of Arts in Public Leadership run on a hybrid online and in-person schedule that works well for busy adults. One resource that’s all too often scarce for a candidate is time, and this program is designed to work with veterans who also juggle work, active duty, and family life.
Additional benefits of working with Veterans Campaign is the opportunity for community and networking — remember, a huge part of a successful campaign is connecting a network that will help amplify the message. And even outside of the initial workshops or seminars, Veterans Campaign provides ongoing mentorship and support for candidates as they continue down the election trail.
Once a candidate has the proper skills and tools for the task at hand, it’s time to align with the right organizations whose power to back a candidate can be highly instrumental in positioning a candidate for a win. These organizations are the political action committees (PACs), the groups that pool member donations into support for the candidates and legislation they support.
One of these PACs with a big focus on veterans is With Honor, whose mission statement drives home its dedication to the cause of increasing veteran representation in Congress and campaigning against the hyper partisanship that permeates our country today.
Through the use of education and advocacy programs, grants, and donations to charity, With Honor helps promote veteran leadership. In the face of declining representation numbers, With Honor saw an opportunity to provide the backing that many veterans need in order to make their campaign grow wings.
There is a strong need for veteran leadership and its balanced characteristics, especially in light of the massive divide that can easily be observed among today’s constituents. With the help of action groups such as With Honor, veterans can find the support they need to launch a successful, uniting campaign. With Honor also contains a “Super PAC” which has more discretion with spending outside of campaign financing.
Another PAC dedicated to furthering the message of veterans is Vote Vets. Through a mission of getting veterans elected as well as holding elected officials accountable, Vote Vets has thrown its backing behind candidates from varying backgrounds that share in military experience. This organization was founded in 2006 and has helped move many veterans into public office through its support and strategy.
Vote Vets amplifies the message it supports by using public issue campaigns to bring more attention to areas such as national security and veterans’ care. In total, the action committee has raised over $120 million in supportive funding since its founding in 2006.
Organizations such as these are instrumental for veterans seeking help with their campaign. Not only can candidates get the resources and education that they need to put together a successful campaign, but they can also find potential for funding and other financial campaign support. The financials are a key to getting a candidate’s message out to as many potential voters as possible.
Stepping into politics isn’t the right decision for everyone. But if you are even slightly considering entering into public office, consider contacting an organization such as Veterans Campaign, which can be a firestarter of tools that can make a campaign seem like a more plausible idea. After all, you never know what opportunities may come up with more networking and learning about how much change you yourself can affect as a public official.
With the support, both from an educational support and a financial perspective, of nonprofits and action committees such as those outlined in this article, veterans may find that launching a campaign doesn’t have to seem impossible. These resources are highly valuable, and they have been put into place to help increase the representation of veterans in office. This representation is something our country is in dire need of, and thanks to the efforts of organizations that support veterans running for office the campaign trail no longer looks lonely and treacherous. As with any service in the military, no one should ever have to walk on their own. These organizations are there to help — don’t be afraid to ask them for it!
If you’re a veteran who has decided to run for office, it’s time to rock the vote. What are some ways candidates can rock the vote and encourage voters to come out and make a difference in their communities? Find out here.