The 2022 midterm elections are going to be pivotal. Democrats would like to expand, or at least hold on to their thin majorities in the House of Representatives and the Senate. Republicans have a real chance to gain control of both chambers.
A key to the Democrats’ success two years ago, when they won the White House and both Houses of Congress, was the increased number of veterans running for office as Democrats. Veterans are compelling candidates because they already have a proven track record of service. Americans trust the military more than any other institution.
Another draw for veteran candidates is that many believe that they can help to heal our bipartisanship. Vets share a bond that transcends politics, and it is that bond of service and selflessness that could act as a bridge across the aisle.
Yet another reason that vets are prized candidates is that there are so few of them in Congress these days. For decades, the number of vets in Congress has been falling. The current Congress has the lowest number of veteran representatives (17%) since the start of World War II.
Republicans have stepped up their efforts to recruit more veteran candidates to counter the push initiated by Democrats in the last several election cycles. The result is that, in many races, vets have been campaigning against one another.
Rep. Elaine Luria, a Democrat and former Navy commander, has twice defeated the former incumbent, Republican Scott Taylor, a former Navy SEAL, in Virginia’s Second Congressional District. Outside of Houston, Air Force vet Democrat Matt Berg is facing Republican incumbent Rep. Troy Niehls, an Army vet who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. These races are not unique: in 2020, 17 House and Senate races featured two veterans and in 2018, there were 21 such races.
The number of female veterans running for Congress has been growing rapidly. In 2018, there were 14 running. In 2020, the number doubled to 28. Rep. Luria could face the Republican challenger, Jen Kiggans, who is a State Senator and former Navy helicopter pilot. If Kiggans wins the primary on June 21, this could be the first time two female vets run against one another in a general election for a seat in Congress.
The nature of elections is that there is only one winner. This fact can be especially harsh when there are two vets running for the same position. Both sacrificed to serve our country and both want to continue doing this. However, only one will win the right to represent their constituency.
But, this can also be heartening. When two vets are running against one another, you can know that no matter who wins, the elected representative will have not just a dedication to service but also a proven track record. Although there will be a winner and loser when a vet gets elected to Congress it is ultimately our country as a whole that benefits the most.