By Debbie Gregory.
Throughout American history, there have been notable American political leaders who have served in the military. Veterans possess many qualities our country and communities need in our civic and political leaders: a commitment to serve, outstanding leadership experience in the face of adversity, familiarity with diversity, and a first-hand experience of foreign policy decisions.
A new study by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) has taken a comprehensive look at veterans’ political involvement on a state level. Surprisingly, despite years of declining veteran representation in Congress, potential candidates for national office may be on the uptick.
The research revealed that roughly one in seven lawmakers serving in state legislatures is a veteran, totaling more than 1,000 former military members nationwide.
Rebecca Burgess, manager of AEI’s Program on American Citizenship and the report’s author, said “I think it’s fair to think that we’ll see an increase in the number of veteran candidates at the federal level in coming years. For some, state offices are like getting their feet wet.”
New Hampshire boasts the highest veteran representation in a state legislature at 23%. followed closely by Nevada, Alabama, North Dakota and Tennessee. Surprisingly, California, the state with the largest veteran population, is in the report’s bottom five with single-digit veteran representation in its state legislature.
One explanation for the low numbers could be that veterans who have spent their early professional years moving around, often making less money than their civilian counterparts, might not have the political networks and financial resources to make a run. Nonpartisan group Veterans Campaign encourages, mentors and prepares veterans for a “Second Service” in civic leadership.
Approximately 14 percent of the almost 7,400 elected individuals nationwide have served in the military.
The most important takeaway is that many veterans are continuing their service in elected office. Many of them just don’t have the national platform or attention, at least, not yet.