Texans elected pair of veterans
State has six of the 78 from across U.S. who will be in new Congress
Texas is sending two new members to Congress who are military veterans, contributing to the largest freshman class of former troops on Capitol Hill since 2010.
Nationwide, 17 newly elected members of the House are veterans, assuring that Congress will begin 2019 with at least 78 veterans, one more than the number currently serving in the House.
“We have just elected to Congress a record number of new Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, while witnessing the largest influx ever of women veterans,” said Seth Lynn, founder of Veterans Campaign, which helps recruit and prepare former troops to run for office.
The list of veterans includes Houston Republican Dan Crenshaw, a retired Navy SEAL who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Plano Republican Van Taylor, a retired Marine who fought in Iraq.
They will be among six veterans representing Texas in Congress. The state has six veterans in Congress now, but two of them — Ted Poe, RAtascocita, and Sam Johnson, R-Plano — are retiring. Crenshaw is replacing Poe in the 2nd Congressional District, while Taylor is replacing Johnson in the 3rd District.
For most of the past 20 years, the number of military veterans has been on the decline in Congress. Even Texas, which has 15 active-duty military bases and 1.6 million veterans, has seen its number of veteran U.S. representatives decline from 16 in 1971 to six today.
Nationally, 72 percent of House members were veterans in 1971. Today, just 18 percent are.
The decline in veterans has prompted former troops to become more aggressive in trying to convince more of their former service colleagues to run for office. Nearly 200 veterans ran for Congress this year.
“Currently, veteran representation in Congress is at a record low, and young veterans often face high barriers to entry due to the rising costs to run for office,” said Rye Barcott, a Marine Corp veteran and co-founder of With Honor, a group in Washington, D.C., that works to get more veterans
in Congress. “I am encouraged to see this surge of fellow veterans who are answering the call to serve our country again.”
Several veterans running for Congress came up short in Texas, including Air Force veteran MJ Hegar and Army veteran Joseph Kopser, both Democrats.
Crenshaw, 34, will be the only Navy SEAL veteran in Congress. Another SEAL, U.S. Rep. Scott Taylor, R-Virginia, lost his re-election bid.
Crenshaw nearly died on a battlefield in Afghanistan six years ago after a roadside bomb killed his Afghan interpreter. Crenshaw said that, at first, he couldn’t see at all. He credits his doctors with pulling off a miracle to keep him alive and restore vision in his left eye.
Lynn of Veterans Campaign said veterans not only bring firsthand knowledge on military issues, but they have historically been more aggressive in challenging presidents, regardless of party, on national defense issues.
According to With Honor, the surge in military veterans can help cut partisanship in Washington. The group says veterans are more likely than nonveteran politicians to work with their colleagues across the aisle.
In addition to Crenshaw and Taylor, the other veterans from Texas in Congress are Reps. Brian Babin, RWoodville; Pete Olson, RSugar Land; Louie Gohmert R-Tyler, and Michael Conaway, R-Midland. Gohmert and Conaway served in the Army, Babin was in the Air Force, and Olson served in the Navy.
Crenshaw gained national attention for a recent appearance on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live.” In a previous show, comedian Pete Davidson had made fun of Crenshaw and his eye patch. Appearing on a subsequent “SNL,” Crenshaw accepted Davidson’s apology and took playful jabs at him.