Emily Cherniack & Micah Scharff of New Politics join the pod to discuss why recruiting service members for a second tour of duty — representing their country, after spending years fighting for it — is more important now than ever.
New Politics is thrilled today to welcome Micah Scharff as the Director of Strategy and Growth, overseeing the organization’s ambitious growth plans following an election cycle where service veterans were a national movement and ran some of the strongest races in the country on both sides of the aisle.
Micah joins New Politics after serving as Finance Director and Senior Advisor for Ken Harbaugh’s congressional campaign in Ohio’s 7th Congressional District, where she led a fundraising operation that raised the most money in the country for a Democrat in a Solid Republican District and outraised the incumbent Congressman, Bob Gibbs, nearly three-to-one ($3.1 million to Gibbs’ $1.1 million).
Micah was recruited to work on the Harbaugh campaign by New Politics and she quickly became one of the country’s top fundraisers, earning her a feature story on CBS News as part of a wave of millenial women staffers entering politics for the first time. A New Politics-endorsed candidate himself, Harbaugh is a Navy veteran and former President of Team Rubicon Global who ran on putting country over party and bringing a new generation of leadership to Washington.
“I couldn’t be more excited to join the New Politics team,” Micah said. “They were critical partners on the Harbaugh campaign, and are one of the only political organizations out there with a long term vision and a thoughtful strategy for how to repair our politics. New Politics is doing the critical work required to lower the barriers of entry to running for office for the best leaders in our country.”
Mounting evidence in North Carolina’s Ninth Congressional District shows election fraud may have been committed and people’s voices were stolen by people hired by the Mark Harris campaign. New Politics-supported candidate Dan McCready on Thursday afternoon announced he was withdrawing his concession to Mark Harris given evidence that Harris “bankrolled criminal activity” that affected the election. As the evidence is investigated and leaders from both parties call for emergency hearings and thorough investigations, Emily Cherniack, the founder and Executive Director of New Politics, the organization that recruits and advises service-based candidates, including Marine Corps veteran and Democratic candidate Dan McCready, released the following statement today.
Cherniack started New Politics back in 2013 as a bipartisan organization aimed at breaking down barriers that often keep people who have served in the military or programs like AmeriCorps and the Peace Corps from getting involved in politics. During this year's midterm elections, phrases such as "country over party" and "servant leadership" that had filled the New Politics office for years suddenly became a part of the national conversation as New Politics' candidates and others used them to explain why they felt compelled to seek elected office.
The organization experienced some major wins, too; Military vets Mikie Sherrill(New Jersey) and Chrissy Houlahan (Pennsylvania) are among the four non-incumbent congressional candidates endorsed by New Politics headed to Washington in January. Together, the two women will increase the number of female veterans' in Congress by 50 percent and double the number serving in the House.
Cherniack thinks this is just the beginning.
Those veterans “built some of the strongest campaigns in the country and played a pivotal role in Democrats taking back the House.” New Politics, a public-service-oriented recruitment group, has already said it intends to bring in more candidates, including more veterans, in 2020.
Yet across the country, better results arrived for candidates endorsed by her organization, New Politics: Jason Crow, another Army veteran, flipped a suburban House seat in Colorado from Republican to Democrat. Mikie Sherrill, a former Naval aviator, did the same in New Jersey, while Max Rose, an Afghanistan combat veteran, turned a chunk of Staten Island blue. In Pennsylvania, a former US Air Force reservist named Chrissy Houlahan wrested a House seat from a Republican challenger.
New Politics is dedicated to recruiting people from the service community—often veterans but also participants in organizations like Teach for America or Americorps—into politics, then giving them the tools they need to succeed and plugging them into a sympathetic fundraising network. “We help them incubate their campaigns,” Cherniack said in a Nov. 7 interview. “It takes a village to elect a candidate.”
Of the nine House candidates they supported, at least four flipped House districts.
“Candidates matter, and we’ve proven the theory of the case with this election,” she said. “I think we saw in this election that voters are hungry for new leadership in both parties. A lot of our veterans won because their authentic leadership promised to break with our political status quo.”
Some pundits suggested the Democrats winning of the House was due in large part to a new wave of military veterans being elected to congressional seats.
“From tonight’s results, it is clear that Americans are hungry for a change in leadership and a new tone in politics,” said Emily Cherniack, founder and executive director of bipartisan political group New Politics. “They have now made their voices heard with their vote, placing their support behind veteran candidates who have dedicated their lives to putting our country first and have shown that they can be the antidote to what our politics needs.”
As we head into Election Day and cap off the most expensive midterm election in U.S. history, Americans can be forgiven for feeling exhausted with “politics as usual.” Between the millions spent on negative advertising and the nonstop coverage that seems to prize the sensational over the substance, it’s understandable that a clear majority of Americans feel like our nation is on the wrong track.
But amidst the polarization and partisan mud-slinging that’s come to define our national politics, we’ve seen a new story emerge this cycle: one of a new kind of political candidate who can rise above tribal partisanship to put people over politics and service to others over elevating themselves.
Today, only 19% of our national legislators are veterans. With the end of conscription in 1973 came changing assumptions about military service as a threshold for public service. Officeholders today are much more likely to be career politicians.
Some believe that the lack of veterans in office is one reason for the deterioration of our civic discourse. If more veterans were serving in Congress, this thinking goes, the institution would be more functional and bipartisan. Groups such as New Politics and With Honor have worked to recruit veterans for elected office and have helped to spur a dramatic uptick in candidacies. In the 2018 midterms, some 400 veterans ran in primaries for the House of Representatives. About half of them won and will be standing for election in November.
Serve America also has multiple partners, including New Politics, the bipartisan, service veteran-focused organization that initially recruited Moulton and offers intensely personalized support to its candidates and their staffs. Several military veteran candidates told me that their first two calls, as they mulled jumping into 2018 races, were to Moulton and to Emily Cherniack, the founder of New Politics and, according to Harbaugh, the “godmother of the operation...she’s really been a key player in bringing us all together.”
The two organizations have worked together on fundraisers, events that were critical to establishing a broader community of veteran candidates—one that some are hoping to parlay into a congressional caucus.
Fifty years ago, the majority of members of Congress had served in the military. Today, that figure is below 20 percent, and President Trump notably avoided serving in Vietnam with five draft deferrals. Boston-based political recruiter Emily Cherniack is trying to change that. “More than ever, we need proven leaders with courage, integrity and empathy to fix our politics,” she says.
Aside from bringing a unique perspective to political posts, veterans can also help restore faith in public service, says Emily Cherniack, executive director of the bipartisan group New Politics, which works to elect people who have come from public service in the military, education and the Peace Corps. "The system is broken down and they want to be part of the solution," she says. The current political environment "doesn't reflect the values they risked their lives to protect."
Sherrill is facing off against Republican Assemblyman Jay Webber in November, and with the backing of groups like the Sierra Club, Human Rights Campaign, Emily's List, New Politics, and as reported by The New York Times, she hauled in a record-breaking $1.9 million in fundraising in the last quarter. RealClearPolitics' most recent June report has her up 4 points in the polls.
Jim Braude was joined by John Walsh, former chair of the Massachusetts Democratic Party, who also led Deval Patrick's gubernatorial race; Emily Cherinack, the founder and executive director of the bipartisan organization New Politics, and Mac D’Alessandro, former political director at SEIU and now a partner at Democracy Partners.
Service is indeed key to Matias' candidacy for MA-03. The 31-year-old state representative is also a former AmeriCorps legal advocate, which made her the type of candidate an organization like New Politics, which endorsed her candidacy, is attracted to. New Politics, along with other organizations like VoteVets, is dedicated to boosting candidates who have a background of public service.
"For me, they've been incredibly instrumental. I'm a non-traditional candidate, a woman of color, a first generation immigrant, and I've faced many barriers. Without New Politics and their guidance, I wouldn't [be] where I am today in this race," Matias says.
Emily Cherniack, founder and executive director of New Politics, recruits veterans from both parties to run for office. One of their programs that helps service veterans explore a run for office graduated more than 500 people from over a dozen cities last year.
"We're really about demystifying the political sphere for people and framing Congress as another call to service instead of the antithesis to the culture of sacrifice and service," Cherniack said.
Military veterans are running for Congress this year in record numbers, many for the first time. In New Jersey's 11th district, no fewer than four veterans, two in each party, are running for the open congressional seat. Lisa Desjardins reports from the competitive district and explains what's behind this new national trend.
McCready is among more than a dozen Democratic House candidates backed by two relatively new national groups trying to influence the 2018 election. One of them, New Politics, supports candidates with a record of national service like the military or Teach for America. It’s bipartisan but has a mostly Democratic slate for the midterms.
The other, Serve America, is a Democratic PAC that is run by Representative Seth Moulton of Massachusetts and dedicated to veterans like him, McCready and Lamb. One of the ideas behind it is that veterans can project a less partisan, petty image and perhaps do better than traditional Democrats in districts that aren’t blue.
“They’ve learned to work with people of different backgrounds and ideologies,” Emily Cherniack, who founded New Politics, explained to me recently. “Their framing has been to put the country first and solve problems.”
Still, Sherrill, 46, isn’t some Stepford Wife. After leaving high school in exurban northern Virginia, she graduated from the Naval Academy with prisoner-of-war training that included being punched, smoked-out and waterboarded. Then she flew a Sea King helicopter for a decade in Europe and the Middle East. The former assistant U.S. attorney for New Jersey has raised nearly $2.5 million after launching a bid for Congress more than a year ago. Her 11th district is one of four competitive Republican-held New Jersey seats, making the Garden State suburbs critical turf in the battle for control of the House.
She’s earned the endorsement of everyone from Emily’s List to former Vice President Joe Biden. And Sherrill fits a trend of Democrats hanging their hats on military women, including Amy McGrath in Kentucky and Gina Ortiz Jones in Texas. “It’s like Captain Americas are running for office; they’ve captured the imagination of who political leaders can be,” says Emily Cherniack, founder of New Politics, which recruits service alums to political life.
Witness Conor Lamb’s win in western Pennsylvania earlier this month. Polling suggests former Army Ranger Jason Crow could do the same in Colorado’s 6th District in the suburbs of Denver. Backed by members of Congress like Representative Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) and organizations like VoteVets and New Politics, this roster of aspirants is a key to Democrats reclaiming control of the House of Representatives in November’s midterms, party strategists believe.