Max Rose’s midterm election win flipped New York’s 11th Congressional district, a previously-Republican held House seat, to Democrat, but that’s not the only reason his run was notable. Rose is a veteran, specifically of the war in Afghanistan, making him the first post-9/11 combat veteran to run for office in New York City, and one of many young veterans to run for office.
Along with the “blue wave,” you could say these midterms saw a bit of a “veteran wave.” Though the midterms didn’t lead to an increase in the overall number of vets in congress, there was a surge of younger veterans with experience in Iraq and Afghanistan and female veterans running and winning seats.
Voters elected 75 veterans to Congress in the midterms, and 16 of those will be serving their first terms — the largest number of military veterans in a Congress freshman class in nearly a decade.
During his campaign, Rose, 31, promised a “bipartisan future,” and cited a bipartisan measure approved by Congress for saving his life. Six years ago when he was in Afghanistan, his vehicle hit a bomb, he said on MSNBC, and he was medevaced to Kandahar Air Force Base.
“The two-star general tells me, ‘Son, five years ago you’d be dead.’ The only reason why I lived is because Congress allocated a couple hundred million dollars to put armor underneath my vehicle and vehicles just like it,” Rose said. “They did that in a bipartisan matter, in a quiet matter… they just solved a problem. People in my district, God bless them, want that to be the story of this country, and I believe it can be, for much larger problems.”
Could veterans in Congress break the bipartisan divide?
Eric Golnick, a former Naval Officer and CEO of Veteran & First Responder Heathcare (VFR), thinks these young vets can cross that partisan divide. He had veteran friends on both sides of the aisle running in the midterms this year.
“How I see it, and when I talk to my friends about it, its continuing to serve,” Golnick said of why so many young veterans were interested in political office in this election. “It’s stepping into a gap of leadership they want to be able to change. I think veterans in general are very action oriented. … If there’s an issue, there’s a linear path to finding a solution.”
Veteran and Democrat Abigail Spanberger won Virginia’s Seventh District in the U.S. House of Representatives. Photo: Getty Images
Data from the Lugar Center, a nonprofit that tracks congressional behavior and launched a Bipartisan Index on which to rang members of Congress, supports his feeling. Their research “suggests that veterans are more likely than nonveterans to co-sponsor bipartisan legislation,” the Washington Post reported.
One bipartisan issue Golnick particularly cares about is veteran health care. VFR is a by-veterans for-veterans organization that tailors mental health and addiction treatments for those who have served in the armed forces (plus first responders and family members). VRF partnered with the VA to provide this care because these issues, Golnick said, are “bigger than one organization, bigger than one government organization.”
Golnick is excited about the young veterans in Congress because he thinks it’ll bring more attention to veteran health care. Young veterans are even more likely to have substance use or other mental health problems, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse.
On Veterans Day, Golnick suggested asking veterans about their service, rather than just thanking them for their service, to pull veterans out of their “diseases of isolation” and make them — especially younger vets — feel like they’re part of their community again.
For Rose, after winning the 11th District, he probably feels pretty integrated in that community. On Thursday he spoke to students at the Lutheran Elementary School of Bay Ridge about what Veterans Day means to him. His message was about being part of something bigger than yourself and of service to others. Couldn’t the same be said for being a politician?