Camouflage wave: Military veterans show strength in midterms

Elections 2022

FILE – Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., speaks during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 20, 2022. U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth and Sen. Dick Durbin urged the Education Department to strengthen regulations against informal removals, a practice where children with disabilities are removed from the classroom for behaviors related to their disability without the removals ever being recorded as suspensions. (AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib, File)

(NewsNation) — Despite talk of a Republican “red wave” during the 2022 midterm election, the U.S. could potentially see a different kind of tide, as Tuesday’s midterms are on pace to bring in the highest increase in congressional lawmakers with military experience in years.

“There’s no red wave, there’s no blue wave, but there might be a camouflage wave,” Paul Rieckhoff, a national security and political analyst,” said Wednesday during an appearance on NewsNation Tuesday evening.

Rieckhoff said, “the ghost of John McCain is strong in America right now” and that veterans seem to be appealing to independent voters after NewsNation/Decision Desk HQ confirmed dozens of veterans have already won big with more votes still being counted.

“There are veterans winning all across this country from both parties — over 50 and counting now. I think the national security community is having a good night and I think they represent integrity and they represent patriotism,” Rieckhoff said.

An estimated 100 veteran candidates on ballots nationwide for congressional office or governor have been projected by political experts to win their races Tuesday — more than any election since 2012. 

Such an outcome is possible due to the estimated one-fifth (21%) of the roughly 1,000 candidates for governor, U.S. Senate or U.S. House on the ballot — 212 in all — having some level of military experience, according to the Pew Research Center.  

“Tuesday’s election will likely mean several more veterans in the 118th Congress,” Seth Lynn, a University of San Francisco adjunct professor and founder of the Veterans Campaign, a group that studies the participation and impact of veterans in public office, said in an interview with Stripes.com on Wednesday.

“This is the first significant increase in congressional military service in half a century,” Lynn continued.

Already on pace to hit 100, here are five of the veteran candidates NewsNation/Decision Desk HQ has already projected to win their races.

Gov. Ron DeSantis

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis defeated Democratic challenger Charlie Crist, NewsNation/Decision Desk HQ projected Tuesday evening.

Although an incumbent, DeSantis’ win is a big part of the camouflage wave, as he, too, served in the military.

After graduating from Harvard Law School, DeSantis went into the Navy before being deployed to Iraq in 2007.

J.D. Vance

Decision Desk HQ also called the race for Ohio’s U.S. Senate seat for Republican J.D. Vance, a venture capitalist and author of “Hillbilly Elegy,” Tuesday evening.

Vance’s book, which went on to become a bestseller and even landed a Netflix movie deal, is partially about his time in the Marines Corps.

Vance served from 2003 to 2007, including deployments to Iraq.

Tammy Duckworth

Tammy Duckworth became part of the “camouflage wave” Tuesday evening after Decision Desk HQ called the Illinois U.S. Senate race for the Democratic incumbent.

Duckworth, who fought off a challenge from Republican Kathy Salvi, is not only an Iraq War veteran but a Purple Heart recipient and former assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Todd Young

Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. Todd Young of Indiana is another veteran declared a winner by NewsNation/Decision Desk HQ.

Young is a veteran who served in the Navy, attended and graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, and accepted a commission in the U.S. Marine Corps.

Richard Blumenthal

NewsNation/Decision Desk HQ called the U.S. Senate race in Connecticut for incumbent Democrat Richard Blumenthal, further strengthening the camo wave. Blumenthal enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves in 1970 before being honorably discharged with the rank of sergeant in 1976.

Also an incumbent, Blumenthal fought off a challenge from Republican Leora Levy to retain his seat.

More than halfway to 100, keep an eye on the races to see if this Congress does indeed end up being the most veteran-laden in a decade.

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