Same midterm song, different primary verse: Veterans in the Arizona and Florida races – AEI – American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

31st August 2018 Off By binary
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The 2018 state primaries are winding down, with two months to go before the November midterm elections. This week, both the Grand Canyon State and the Sunshine State held their initial round of elections. Both states have populations of military families and veterans, as well as strong economic links to the defense sector. And both factors certainly play some part in the fact that some 43 military veterans were on Tuesday’s ballots. Six of these were incumbents, all of whom survived a primary challenge. Five female veterans also ran, including current Republican Arizona Representative Martha McSally (District 2), who’s making her first bid for the US Senate. At least 14 of the 43 campaigning veterans also saw service post-9/11.

Martha McSally greets her supporters on election night after winning the Republican primary for the open US Senate seat in Tempe, Arizona, US August 28, 2018. REUTERS/Nicole Neri


Over half a million veterans are official Arizona residents, and over half of these live in Maricopa Country. Arizona veterans have fought in everything from WWII to the Post-9/11 conflicts. There are around 400,000 wartime veterans, with the vast majority of these 65 years of age or older, while some 69,000 of the wartime vets are 40 or younger. The National Conference of State Legislatures ranks Arizona among the top ten states with the highest defense spending as a percentage of state GDP. Arizona is home to 20 military installations in all, including the largest UAV training base in the world, and one of the largest tactical aviation ranges in the US.

None of this means that a candidate’s veteran status automatically propels them toward the win column in Arizona. Of the 14 veteran candidates this primary cycle (11 Republicans, 2 Democrats, 1 Libertarian), eight survived to be on the November ballot (5 Republicans, 2 Democrats, 1 Libertarian), including Democratic incumbent Ruben Gallego (Marine Corps) in District 7, Republican incumbent Attorney General Mark Brnovich (Army National Guard), and current Republican Congresswoman Martha McSally (Air Force), who’s running for US Senator. Libertarian Adam Kokesh (Marine Corps) hopes to challenge McSally in the general election. Meanwhile, David Garcia (Army) has made a successful gubernatorial run on the Democratic Party side. And among Republican veterans contending for congressional seats in Districts 1, 2, 3, and 9, only Wendy Rogers (Air Force) in District 1; Nick Pierson (Army Reserves) in District 3; and Steve Ferrara (Navy) in District 9 have made it to November’s general election.


Florida consistently ranks among the top five states for total defense spending, most total active duty and reserve military service members, and most military veterans. Its 21 military installations are spread throughout the length and breadth of the state and provide three-quarters of a million direct and indirect jobs (Florida ranks second among states for space and defense systems manufacturing, for instance). The Sunshine State is home to 1.5 million veterans, 1.4 million of whom are male; 1.1 million wartime veterans; 0.8 million 65 years of age and older; and around 177,000 of whom are Post-9/11 veterans.

Florida also has a 29 member-strong congressional delegation. Coincidentally, exactly 29 vets were running in the state’s congressional primaries (18 Republicans, 8 Democrats, 3 “unaffiliated”). Four of these are incumbents, all of whom survived the primary process. Not one of the three female veterans (1 Democrat, 2 Republicans) were successful in their congressional bids. However, all told, 14 veterans will be on Florida’s November ballot — for governor, US Senator, and Congressman across 14 districts. In seven out of those 14 districts, multiple veteran candidates were running simultaneously. In November, a few of these districts will continue to see veterans running head-to-head.

In the gubernatorial race, Ron DeSantis (Navy) will be the Republican candidate. In the senatorial race, (incumbent) Democrat Bill Nelson (Army) will be up against current Governor and Republican Rick Scott (Navy) and third party candidate Charles Tolbert (Army). Out of Democratic veterans running in Districts 1, 2, 7, 15, 18, and 26, only Bob Rackleff (Navy) in District 2 will be on November’s ballot. Among Republican veterans running in Districts 1, 2, 6, 9, 13, 16, 17, 18, 23, and 27, incumbents Neal Dunn (Army) in District 2; Vern Buchanan (Air Force) in District 16; and Brian Mast (Army) in District 18 will again be on the ballot. These three will be joined by newcomers Michael Waltz (Army) in District 6; Wayne Liebnitzky (Navy) in District 9; George Buck (Army, Air Force Reserves, Army National Guard) in District 13; and Greg Steube (Army) in District 17.

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