The 5 Most Important Down-Ballot Veteran Political Campaigns
5. Leroy Garcia
Colorado State Representative — District 46
Colorado is a state with a huge military presence, home to the Air Force Academy and center of a culture of rugged individualism. While Denver gets a ton of attention, Pueblo is also a key urban area that is shifting the balance of power toward Democrats. Current Pueblo City Councilor and Marine Leroy Garcia is poised to take an important State Representative seat. Leroy represents a growing Latino wave in western states and has a background as an emergency medical professional, which means he’ll be a go-to on first responder and health issues in the State House. Leroy has a strong pathway looking to the future. Pueblo is a major player in the 3rd Congressional District, where Sal Pace is locked in a tight race to return the seat to Democrats — so there’s a decent change you’ll see Leroy, also an Iraq vet, on the DCCC Red-to-Blue list within a decade.
4. Jason Kander
Missouri Secretary of State
Army, Missouri National Guard
Afghanistan veteran Jason Kander first made waves in 2008 when he knocked 20,000 doors to win a Missouri State Rep seat. That hard work has continued and Jason now has almost $1 million cash on hand in a race that, if won, could position him for future Gubernatorial consideration. Kander is a jack of all trades, serving in both infantry and intelligence roles in the military, and picking up a law degree and running a small business in his spare time. In a state where Democratic hopes have been dwindling –even the legendary Congressman Ike Skelton was defeated in 2010 — Jason Kander is a shining bright spot.
3. Joe Abruzzo
Florida State Senate District 25
Coast Guard Reserve
When the dust cleared in 2010, only one Florida Statehouse Democrat held on to a seat in a Republican leaning district: Coast Guardsman Joe Abruzzo. While Joe represents Palm Beach county, his district extends far west into agriculture territory, but his moderate positions match the turf. Now he’s attempting to secure a promotion in the political battleground region of southeast Florida. The Palm Beach county region has seen Congressional districts flipping back and forth routinely for the last ten years. In one district, Republican Clay Shaw was beat by Democrat Ron Klein who was in turn defeated by Crazy Allen West. (That’s an official title.) To the north, liberal Republican Mark Foley was beat by conservative Democrat Tim Mahoney who was the beat by Republican Tom Rooney. Should Abruzzo win his Senate race, he’ll be a heavy hitter in the Florida Democratic party and likely won’t have to wait long for a chance at national stardom.
(P.S. Abruzzo is a Truman Project Partner)
2. Connie Pillich
Ohio State Representative District 28
Connie Pillich is a household name in Ohio politics after she won a tough fight in 2010 to defeat the head of the Cincinnati Tea Party. Conservatives threw everything they could at Connie, but she emerged victorious. Now Connie is defending the seat in a crucial battleground region of a battleground state. Pillich is the ranking member on the Ohio Veterans Affairs committee, so her contributions have played a major role in helping the state’s military families. She was heavily recruited by the DCCC to consider higher office, so her star is only going to rise.
1. Scott Holcomb
Georgia State Representative District 82
A Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan veteran, Scott Holcomb is the classic Southern Democratic tough guy candidate. Holcomb won his seat unopposed in 2010 and Republicans soon regretted it. Scott’s toughness has extended to the State House this year when Holcomb challenged Republicans to take the same drug test they wanted welfare recipients to take. The idea spread across the country when it successfully defeated the conservative legislation, even becoming the topic of a Daily Show schtick where FL Governor Rick Scott is asked to pee in a cup. In return, the Republican house leadership drew Scott into a new district, mostly comprised of his friend State Rep. Elana Parent’s district. Holcomb was expected to bow out, but instead Parent moved on. The Holcomb campaign expects Georgia Republican operatives to spend upwards of $100,000 in negative ads to defeat. They know, like we know, that a well-known white male military Democrat in Georgia is the achilles heal for Republicans. See Max Cleland, Jimmy Carter, Sam Nunn…
(P.S. Holcomb is a Truman Fellow and former Truman Project Atlanta Regional Director)
Mike Moschella is Truman’s Political Director. Truman Intern Molly Varoga co-authored this post.