By: Abby Vesoulis
In 1971, nearly three-fourths of the members of Congress were military veterans. When the current session of Congress began in 2017, that figure was less than 19%.
That might change after Tuesday’s midterms, especially in the House of Representatives.
According to With Honor, a “cross-partisan” Super PAC devoted to increasing military representation in Congress, over 200 veterans sought Congressional seats this election season — most of them in the House. This count includes third-party and active write-in candidates.
Of the 75 House races and 13 Senate races the Cook Political Report identified as competitive on the Monday before Election Day, more than 20 included veteran candidates.
Mikie Sherrill, a Naval Academy graduate, former Navy helicopter pilot and the Democratic candidate for New Jersey’s 11th District hopes to help improve the ratio. Sherrill told TIME her experiences in the Navy make her uniquely positioned to work with lawmakers across the aisle to get meaningful legislation accomplished.
“When I was a helicopter aircraft commander, we never flew on a Democratic mission or a Republican mission,” she said. “We always were able to work with one another, despite coming from all over the country and all different backgrounds. We were always able to work together and get the job done.”
Even though she’s running as a Democrat in a district that has been solidly red for more than three decades, Sherrill has led a competitive campaign. The most recent poll indicates she has a double-digit lead over her Republican opponent, Jay Webber, a member of the New Jersey General Assembly.
Rye Barcott, a former Marine and a co-founder of With Honor, told TIME military veterans face barriers that many of their opponents don’t. In addition to the rising congressional campaign costs, members of the military move around a lot. While non-veteran candidates can often spend most of their lives in a home district, military vets can spend years away from theirs. That, in addition to the elimination of the draft, has led to the decline in veterans’ congressional representation.
But veterans also understand [...]