Politics

Brian Mast Among Candidates to be VA Secretary

Freshman lawmaker is combat veteran who served in Afghanistan

Rep. Brian Mast, R-Fla., is among candidates to be nominated to be Veterans Affairs Secretary (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Rep. Brian Mast confirmed he has been under consideration for the nomination to be secretary of Veterans Affairs.

“It is an honor to be considered to serve my fellow veterans and their families at the highest possible level,” the Florida Republican said Thursday.

A White House official on Thursday told the Associated Press that the freshman lawmaker was on a list of candidates for the job but declined to say where he stood in the pecking order. 

Mast, who retired from the Army in 2012 as a staff sergeant, served in Afghanistan as a bomb disposal expert. In 2010, the last improvised explosive device that he found exploded, causing the loss of both of his legs.

After retiring from the Army, Mast worked for the Department of Homeland Security and did a volunteer tour of duty in 2015 in Israel with the Israeli Defense Forces.

Democrats are targeting Mast's Treasure Coast seat, and if he were to vacate the 18th District, it'd become an even more desirable pick-up opportunity for Democrats.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has added former State Department official Lauren Baer to its Red to Blue list for strong recruits. She ended the first quarter of the year with $708,000 compared to Mast's $1.5 million. (She still faces a late primary in August.)

In part because of his background and personal story, Mast is considered a strong incumbent who'd be difficult to beat in November. He's broken with his party on issues like climate change and bucked the NRA by backing some gun control measures in the wake of the Parkland shooting.

Previously represented by Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy, the 18th District swung to the right in 2016. President Donald Trump carried the district by 9 points after it went narrowly for former President Barack Obama in 2008 and Matt Romney in 2012.

Mast's first election was a tossup race, but he ultimately defeated an erratic self-funder by 11 points.

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the 2018 race Solid Republican.

Simone Pathe and Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report. Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.