Campaigns

Reps. Crenshaw, Gallagher, Waltz urge more GOP veterans to run for Congress

Republicans cite Democratic successes in 2018 midterms, and seek to recruit more veteran GOP candidates

Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, and two other Republican House members are making a push to elect more GOP military veterans to Congress. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Three Republican congressmen who served in the military are relaunching a PAC to help recruit more GOP veterans like themselves to run for Congress.

Reps. Dan Crenshaw of Texas, Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin and Michael Waltz of Florida announced Wednesday they are forming the War Veterans Fund PAC this cycle, which aims to recruit Republican veterans of U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to run in their home districts and assist them with funding.

Veterans are “natural leaders, problem solvers, and patriots,” Crenshaw, a former Navy SEAL, said Wednesday at a joint press conference for the PAC at the Republican National Convention.

The War Veterans Fund PAC, which backed freshmen Crenshaw, Waltz and four other candidates last year. It provides a much-needed boost to veteran candidates, who often start from ground zero in the political arena without many supporters, name recognition or up-front capital.

“Veterans tend to want to be ultra-prepared. They want to know everything they possibly can before running for Congress,” Crenshaw said, according to The Dallas Morning News. “That’s great ... but don’t undersell yourself. You can do this.”

There are a total of 96 veterans currently serving in the House and Senate — just 18 percent of the 116th Congress’ membership, and six fewer than the 102 veterans who served at the beginning of the previous Congress. The number of veterans in Congress has slowly dwindled from record highs in the 1970s and 1980s, when nearly three of every four lawmakers were veterans, according to the Congressional Research Service. Currently, 66 of the veterans in Congress are Republicans. Thirty are Democrats.

But the 116th Congress boasts 21 new veterans among its ranks — the largest number among freshman class in nearly a decade. Twelve are Republicans, and nine, including four women, are Democrats.

At Wednesday’s press conference, Gallagher highlighted the success of Democratic veteran candidates in the 2018 midterms

“We’ve seen the Democrats do a good job of recruiting young veterans to run in the midterms, to great political effect. We would be dumb not to do the same,” Wisconsin congressman said.

The War Veterans Fund PAC hopes to provide a GOP counterweight to successful Democratic efforts to recruit and back veterans in the 2018 midterms.

Presidential candidate and Democratic Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts, a former Marine Corps officer, headed one of the most successful and expansive leadership PACs in the country this past cycle.

Rooted in Boston and leaning heavily on a network of financial- and medical-sector donors, Moulton raised more than $6 million through his Serve America PAC, Serve America Victory Fund, and Serve America Women’s Victory Fund.

It endorsed 67 Democratic veteran candidates for federal and local elections in 28 states and supported them with resources and training.

Serve America PAC raised the third-highest amount of money of any Democratic leadership PAC, trailing only those of House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer and California Sen. Kamala Harris.

Gallagher, Crenshaw, Waltz and PAC coordinator Edward Crawford said Wednesday they are confident that with a more concentrated effort, the GOP can continue to provide a platform for military veterans to carry on their service in the House and Senate.

“It is time for a new generation of leaders who have been tested in service to our country to lead the Republican Party,” Crawford said, according to the Washington Free Beacon. “Now more than ever we need qualified, respected leaders in Washington, D.C. to help lead our nation.”

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