Senate races a mixed bag for veteran candidates
WASHINGTON — Republicans won victories Tuesday night allowing them to retain control of the Senate but the election was a mixed bag for veteran and military candidates in some of the chamber’s key races.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., won re-election as expected and will likely retain his chairmanship of the powerful Armed Services Committee. Democrat Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq war veteran, won out in Illinois over incumbent and fellow veteran Sen. Mark Kirk, while Rep. Todd Young, a Republican and Marine veteran, beat out one-time Democratic favorite in Indiana.
But Republican Congressman and Army Brig. Gen. Joe Heck, who was running in Nevada, and Democrat Jason Kander, an Army veteran running in Missouri, both lost in highly competitive races to candidates with no military experience.
Overall, the election outcome means McCain and some new Senate voices such as Young will maintain a slightly stronger hand in pushing defense policy – including an ongoing effort to hike military spending – in the Senate while having support from a House that also stayed firmly in GOP control. But losses by Heck and Kander also come as the number of veteran lawmakers in Congress sink to historic lows.
“The one message that came through loud and clear in this election is that Americans want progress now,” McCain said in a released victory statement. “They want progress now to secure their families and America’s interests from the dangerous threats we face overseas.”
McCain, who is a key player in crafting military policy, said it was a “difficult national election and not always an uplifting one.” But he said he was ready to extend an open hand of cooperation to President-elect Donald Trump, who won a sweeping victory that stunned pollsters after one of the most divisive and unusual U.S. elections in recent history.
One of the most stunning moments of the election came last year when Trump questioned whether McCain was a war hero because he was captured and held as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. McCain withdrew support for Trump in October after a video surfaced showing the president-elect bragging about making unwanted sexual advances on women.
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