Democrats seek veteran candidates, but this is not the first time: district partisanship matters

In 2016, Democrats nominated 173 candidates to take on Republican incumbents in the House of Representatives while Republicans chose 102 people to take on Democratic incumbents. Ignoring open seats (as well as California and the other states with top-two nominating systems), I plotted the kinds of districts where these nominations took place to contrast where military veterans were nominated versus nonveterans.


Parties differed in where veterans emerged from the primaries. The 26 Republican veteran candidates ran in races that were 5% more competitive than Republican nonveterans, while the Democrats nominated 34 veterans in places that were more red than the Dem nonveterans.

This says that both parties are nominating a lot of military veterans, but Republicans do so in more competitive districts (at least in 2016) than the Democrats do.

This seems a bit odd, given that Democrats have very recently signaled that they hope to nominate veterans and highlight them as a theme.

It’s not the first time Democrats have signaled the importance of veteran candidacies. In 2006, Democrats nominated even more Democrats to run than 2016, the “Fighting Dems,” but they mostly lost–largely because they ran in districts where Democrats had little hope of prevailing, irrespective of the quality of the candidate.

Call for Papers: Veterans and Military-Connected College Students

As a kid who went to college on the GI Bill and later a college professor who deals with veterans as students today, I’m glad to see specific attention to issues with how vets in college are treated by college administrators and faculty. I’ve heard of situations where professors did not accept national guard duty as an excused absence and other nonsense. I suppose one reason for shortcomings in how colleges deal with veterans is that there are few of them among faculty and college administration. So, I am pleased to see a national student affairs administrators’ association holding an annual symposium on improving support for students with military experience. Link to the call.

Dem vet seeks to replace Dem vet seeking to be Minnesota’s governor

An OIF veteran with experience in the Obama White House, Dan Feehan, wants Minnesota’s 1st district to remain represented by a Democrat and by a veteran. Its current representative, Tim Walz, decided to run for the Governor’s mansion instead of reelection. Trump carried MN-1, just as similar areas of rural Wisconsin and Michigan went for Trump to tilt the Electoral College his way. I know a little bit about Walz. In 2012, I published a short piece in Armed Forces & Society that exploited a campaign advertisement Walz ran in his first House election in 2006. (I edited out the bits pertaining to his military experience to make two versions and varied the treatment to find out how potential voters perceive political candidates’ military service.) It’s obviously early, and Feehan is currently one of five Democrats seeking the nomination to win a district that could be an uphill climb for Dems in 2018.

Distinguished Flying Cross awardee (and Longhorn) aiming for TX-31

In a report that reads a bit too closely to her Wikipedia page in the Hill Country News, Mary Jennings Hegar has thrown her hat in the ring for a House seat. She isn’t the only Democrat in the race, but I predict she’ll earn more ink given her military background, heroics that led to the medals, and the fact that Hollywood is making a movie about her story.

Tough district for a Dem pickup, though. The Democrats who have tried have not cracked 40%, and one year did not nominate a candidate. It’s something like a minus 12 for Cook, with a majority white population that Romney and Trump easily carried. I however suspect John Rice Carter, the incumbent, will be more nervous this cycle than he has been with his past challengers.

US Marine vs. Nancy Pelosi?

Seth Moulton (D MA-6) led Marines on four tours in Iraq despite being personally against the war, and some have speculated that he is a prospect for the Democrats’ big dance in 2020. Maybe. What makes him interesting now are his calls for changes in his party’s leadership in the House. He’s not the only person critiquing Nancy Pelosi in the wake of special election losses of course (races in which we always risk overinferring the political winds), but keep an eye on how he uses his time as a Marine as part of his rhetoric about the need for responsibility for the election losses. I track the way political elites employ their service to communicate political messages, and Moulton’s explicit language helps him telegraph his rivalry with Pelosi at the same time that he reminds potential voters of his time in Iraq. (Photo credit)