November 6, 2008, Washington, DC — Six veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom won their congressional races Tuesday, giving recent combat veterans their biggest presence in national government yet.
In 2006 Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Pa., was the only veteran who served on the ground in the most recent Iraq conflict to win election to Congress. Murphy, a former Army captain, worked as a military lawyer with the 82nd Airborne Division in 2003-2004.
He easily won re-election to the seat, defeating Marine Corps veteran Tom Manion by 57 percent to 42 percent, according to preliminary state election results.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., is the only other current member of Congress to boast recent war experience. Graham is a colonel in the Air Force Reserve and spent time performing legal duties in Iraq for more than a month over two active-duty tours in 2007.
Graham, who served in the U.S. House for eight years before his election to the Senate in 2002, won his re-election bid over Democrat Bob Conley, 58 percent to 42 percent.
Of the four newcomers, three are Republicans, two from Ohio. Ohio Republican state senator Steve Stivers, a lieutenant colonel in the state National Guard who served a tour in Iraq four years ago, defeated his Democratic opponent 48 percent to 43 percent in a race that wasn’t finalized until early Wednesday morning.
And Ohio Democratic state senator John Boccieri, a major in the Air Force Reserves who has served four tours as a pilot flying missions into Iraq, claimed the congressional seat being vacated by retiring Rep. Ralph Regula, R-Ohio, by a 54 percent to 46 percent vote.
Duncan D. Hunter, son of current House Armed Services ranking member Rep. Duncan Hunter, won his election bid to take over his father’s California seat over fellow Iraq war veteran Mike Lumpkin by a 57 percent to 39 percent tally.
The younger Hunter, also a Republican, spent six years in the Marine Corps and Reserve, serving tours in Iraq in 2003 and 2004 and a tour in Afghanistan in 2006.
In Colorado, Iraq war veteran Mike Coffman won the seat previously held by retiring Republican Rep. Tom Tancredo, defeating Democrat Hank Eng by a 60 percent to 40 percent margin.
Coffman spent 20 years in the Army, Marine Corps and Reserve before retiring in 1999 to pursue politics as a career. But in 2005, he stepped down as state treasurer to re-enlist with the Marines, and served an active-duty tour in Iraq to assist with the country’s national elections.
Three other veterans who won re-election Tuesday — Rep. Chris Carney, D-Pa.; Rep. Joe Sestak, D-Pa.; and Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn. — were deployed overseas in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, without ever entering Afghanistan.