veterans-are-running-for-congress-—-who-to-watch-on-election-night

Of the 469 House and Senate races on the ballot this fall, 18 of them will feature two veterans squaring off against each other for a congressional seat.

Here is a look at a few of the more competitive matchups and what a win might mean for control of Congress next year:

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Virginia 2nd Congressional District

The incumbent, Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria, is a 20-year Navy veteran and two-term member of Congress. Her final assignment was commanding Assault Craft Unit Two, a unit of 400 sailors that provided support to Marine Corps operations.

Luria has been a key figure on the House Armed Services Committee for the last four years, in some cases sparring with her own party’s leadership to push for more defense funding and more resources for the Navy.

But Luria was also a member of the House’s special committee on the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, a politically-charged assignment that altered some views of her as a centrist lawmaker.

She’ll square off on election night against fellow Navy veteran Jennifer Kiggans, the Republican nominee. Kiggans served as a CH-46 and SH-3 helicopter pilot before leaving the service and using the GI Bill to become a nurse practitioner.

Each of Luria’s past two election victories have come by less than 6% of the total votes cast. Recent polls show this year’s contest as a toss-up.

Luria losing on election night would indicate that Democrats aren’t able to hold key swing districts, and will likely lose either the House or Senate, if not both chambers.

Indiana Senate seat

This Hoosier State election is the only Senate race in the country this year featuring two veterans competing head-to-head.

Incumbent Republican Sen. Todd Young is a U.S. Naval Academy graduate who served in the Marine Corps for a decade. He has served in Congress since 2011 and in the Senate since 2017.

His opponent, Thomas McDermott Jr., spent six years in the Navy as a nuclear submariner. He has served as mayor of Hammond, Ind., since 2004.

Young’s seat is a must win for Republicans if they have any hopes of taking control of the Senate. The chamber is currently divided 50-50, with Democrats controlling the agenda due to Vice President Kamala Harris’ role as the tiebreaker in all Senate votes.

Young was comfortably ahead in polling earlier this summer, but surveys over the last few weeks have shown that lead shrinking. The race result could point to either broader Republican momentum on election night or Democratic candidates outperforming pre-voting polls.

New York 18th Congressional District

Democratic Rep. Pat Ryan is the incumbent here, but he has only been in Congress for a few weeks. Ryan won a special election in August to replace fellow Democrat Rep. Antonio Delgado, who stepped down in May to become the New York lieutenant governor.

Ryan’s win was viewed by Democrats as a hopeful sign for the midterms, since the 18th district is almost evenly split politically. But he’ll have to win his second election in four months in order to remain in the seat.

Ryan is a West Point graduate who served two tours in Iraq as an Army intelligence officer. His opponent, Colin Schmitt, is a New York State Assembly member who served in the New York Army National Guard.

The Cook Political Report has the race listed as a toss-up, and recent polls have shown no clear advantage for either candidate.

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Georgia 6th Congressional District

There is no incumbent in this newly redrawn district, since Democratic Rep. Lucy McBath was shifted to the 7th congressional district. That leaves two newcomer veterans vying to step into the role.

Republican Rich McCormick is widely expected to win the contest, based on voting patterns for the constituency. He served 20 years in the Marine Corps and Navy, including time as a department head for emergency medicine in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Democrat Bob Christian spent 10 years in the Army, including a combat tour in Iraq. He has focused much of his campaign on countering what he calls “extremist” views by Republican leaders and McCormick.

McCormick is already viewed by some Republican caucus members as a potential key voice on military and foreign affairs issues. A landslide victory would give him strong footing to start that phase of his political career. A narrow victory or upset, however, could hint at more victories for Democratic candidates across the country.

Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.

 

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