Newsweek: Freshman Democrats Aren't All Outspoken Progressives - Moderate Veterans Unite to Bolster Re-Election Hopes

Unapologetically moderate, they consider themselves pragmatic and are proud to be labeled  “boring.” And it’s why they say it’s so vital that their 2020 re-election campaigns succeed.

Five freshman female Democrats—Chrissy Houlahan of Pennsylvania, Abigail Spanberger and Elaine Luria of Virginia, Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey and Elissa Slotkin of Michigan—have teamed up to help make sure their center-left voices don’t vanish from a Congress that has become more polarized in each of the past few elections.

“Our main goal is first and foremost to work together, to elevate the idea or power or just the fact that you can work as a team in this environment,” Luria said. “We’re not here to recruit new people. We’re a group working together to support each other’s campaigns.”

The small group of lawmakers has formed a joint fundraising committee—Service First Women’s Victory Fund—a practice used in Washington to pool and grow candidates’ resources for the campaign trail while sharing the costs. It’s a cohesiveness that will not only aide in re-election bids, they argue, but will also be used as a motivator for future women candidates with parallel backgrounds to run for office and to establish similar coalitions.

“It’s to keep our seats and work together,” Luria said. “Every man for himself, but every woman together.”  

The committee raised $56,000 in the first three months of this year, according to the Federal Election Commission.

A Shared Background

But these lawmakers share more than just their political ideologies and freshman status in one of the most diverse Congresses in history: They all come from military or intelligence backgrounds, an attribute that was partly responsible for their getting recruited to run for political office in the first place.

Houlahan served in the Air Force, Luria and Sherrell both graduated from the Naval Academy, with Luria going on to serve for two decades as an officer and Sherrell spending nearly a decade flying helicopters for the Navy. Spanberger and Slotkin did not serve in the armed forces but had careers at the CIA before getting into politics.

“I always think that veterans and people who’ve worked in government and service are really, in some ways, uniquely able to deal with Congress,” Sherrill said. “Because we are all so incredibly proactive, we love our country, but we’ve all worked in government. It’s not this huge roadblock when we come up against the bureaucracy.”

This group of moderate women helped Democrats take back the House, not just winning their elections but flipping their five districts from Republican to Democrat.

“These are the leaders who will transform and save our democracy,” said Emily Cherniack, the founder and executive director of the nonpartisan organization New Politics, which has partnered with the Democratic lawmakers to help raise money. Its mission is to recruit and support candidates who once served in the military and intelligence communities, as well as from national service programs like Americorps and the Peace Corps. 

Once strangers who never imagined a life in politics, the freshman United States representatives were now side-by-side describing their ideas and motivations for helping one another win re-election, genuine friends who joked around and knew each other well enough to finish one another’s sentences.

They sat at a large table across from a handful of national media outlets, including Newsweek, as they unveiled their partnership in a seventh-floor conference room of New Politics’ office building in southeast Washington, with floor-to-ceiling windows that offered a bird’s eye–like view of the Washington Monument and the Capitol building.

“The fact that we can do this together is icing on the cake,” Slotkin said. “You get to work with people you respect, but also people you have a really fun time with.”

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