Veterans Lead

November 17, 2018 –

Many of the most effective American leaders have been veterans. Twenty-six of 44 U.S. presidents served in the armed forces, and the ratio is beginning to grow in Congress as well. This year, an unprecedented number of veterans ran for Congress — more than 150 vied in elections around the country — and 75 were ultimately elected.

“Veterans have a formative experience in their 20s that makes them likely to put country ahead of party,” Jason Mangone, a former Marine and co-author of Leaders: Myth and Reality, told Reuters. “That’s the sort of leadership we really want to see.”

Here are a few of the veterans who ran and won during the camouflage wave of 2018:

Dan Crenshaw – Texas CD-02
Crenshaw won his race for the House of Representatives with a unique backstory and message of unity that appealed to Texans. A Republican, he is a former Navy SEAL and served several deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. Crenshaw medically retired from the military in 2016, four years after a homemade landmine destroyed his right eye and nearly blinded him.

Crenshaw writes on his campaign website that he “believes in service before self, and understands that there is no higher calling than service to the American people” – whether in Washington or at war.

Mikie Sherrill – New Jersey CD-11
Sherrill, a Democrat and former Navy helicopter pilot, was elected to the House in the 11th District of New Jersey – a seat held by Republicans for more than 30 years. She opposes the Republican tax plan and has backed increased infrastructure spending and the Affordable Care Act, among other causes. Her first campaign for any public office received national attention when former Vice President Joe Biden headlined a rally for her and she shattered the state record for Congressional fundraising with more than $7 million.

Jason Crow – Colorado CD-06
Crow won one of the most closely-watched races in the country, defeating Republican incumbent Rep. Mike Coffman, a fellow Army veteran. Crow won his election in part because of his strong stance on gun control. “We have over 33,000 people dying a year, a year, on our streets, and in our schools, and in our homes. Enough is enough. There are commonsense things we can do that strike that right balance, that respect, again, the culture and heritage of this country, but will save thousands of lives,” he said in an interview.

Elaine Luria – Virginia CD-02
Luria, a former Navy commander, approaches public service the same way she approached her military work. It’s about “getting a mission done,” she told ABC News. “Having that experience of working together with people of all perspectives, all backgrounds, and accomplishing a mission is something that I think we as female veterans collectively feel we can take to Washington,” the Democrat said.

Michael Waltz – Florida CD-06
Waltz, an Army veteran, first got his taste of Washington, D.C. as a defense policy director for Secretaries of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Robert Gates. Waltz, a Republican, beat out opponent Nancy Soderberg by running on a platform of affordable healthcare, securing the border, quality education, and lower taxes.

All five Representative-elects leaned on their military experience throughout their campaigns. Although they were running in different states for different political parties, one thing was clear: red, blue, or purple, these men and women share a commitment to public service.

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This article originally appeared in the November 17, 2018 issue of Wide Angle, our regular newsletter designed, we hope, to inform rather than inflame. Each edition brings you original articles by Common Ground Solutions, a quiz, and a round-up of news items — from across the political spectrum — that we think are worth reading. We make a special effort to cover good work being done to bridge political divides, and to offer constructive information on ways our readers can engage in the political process and make a difference on issues that matter to them.

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