SALEM — Congressman Seth Moulton’s strategy of recruiting and supporting veterans and service-oriented candidates, many of them women or political newcomers, helped flip the U.S. House of Representatives from red to blue.
Of the 34 Democratic congressional candidates Moulton endorsed through his Serve America PAC during this election cycle, at least 18 of them won their races while 11 lost, but even many of those losses were by razor-thin margins.
Of those 18 Serve America victories in Tuesday’s midterms, 15 flipped districts from Republican to Democrat.
According to Moulton’s campaign, there were at least four races across the country that were still too close to call Wednesday. Iraq War veteran Gina Ortiz Jones, down by just 689 votes in Texas’ 23rd Congressional District, was refusing to concede. And in a stunning development Wednesday night, Democrat Xochitl Torres Small was declared the winner in a tight race for the 2nd District in New Mexico
“First of all,” Moulton said, “this entire election was proof that Americans want a new generation of leaders in Congress.” They are the kind of people who put the country before politics, those willing to put hard work to get good things done, he said.
“He deserves a lot of credit for the Democrats taking back the House,” said political strategist Michael Whouley, CEO and co-founder of the public affairs firm Dewey Square Group in Boston, and a Danvers resident.
Whouley, who has worked for Democrats on high-profile national campaigns, credited Moulton for recruiting candidates with military service, which is not the typical background many perceive Democrats as having.
Moulton was victorious Tuesday in his own race, as he beat back a spirited challenge from an Army veteran, former Green Beret and Beverly Republican and businessman Joseph Schneider, 65 percent to 31 percent, to win a third term. Independent Mary Jean Charbonneau of Rockport came in a distant third.
For much of the election cycle, the Harvard-educated veteran Marine Corps infantry officer has waged a battle to win back the House, doing so by recruiting the kind of service leaders he wanted to see in Congress.
“There are a lot of candidates we did not endorse or support,” he noted.
In the fleeting days before the midterms, Moulton even traveled to New Jersey and Pennsylvania to stump for candidates at a veterans roundtable discussion and a canvass launch.
He supported candidates by taking a page out of his own playbook, Whouley said, by recruiting Democratic veterans, like himself.
Many of these veterans and so-called next generation leaders said they were willing to put country over party if elected to Congress. Many of those running were doing so for the first time.
It also helped that Moulton’s Serve America PAC, Serve America Victory Fund and Serve America Women’s Victory Fund were able to raise $8 million for these efforts, which included on-the-ground support and staff who made get-out-the-vote text messages and manned phone banks.
Moulton also sent staff to various races around the country. He counseled candidates in conference calls and in a private online collaboration tool called Slack, and he traveled to stump for them.
Serve America candidates represent most of the 28 seats Democrats gained in the House, said political strategist Carrie Rankin, founder and president of North Bridge Strategies and Moulton’s former communications director. These candidates represent a large chunk of the Democratic caucus now.
This shows “people across the country are eager for a new generation of leaders,” Rankin said, the kind who understand service and who can put an end to divisive politics. Many of them have served in the military or have served in organizations such as Teach For America.
“I think people want Congress to work again,” Rankin said.
Many Serve America candidates have impressive military or public service backgrounds, Whouley noted. That includes Elissa Slotkin of Michigan, who was in the CIA and served three tours in Iraq as a Middle East analyst, according to the Serve America PAC website.
Slotkin beat incumbent Republican Mike Bishop in a four-way race for the 8th District of Michigan with a nearly 4-point margin of victory.
There were also some “painful losses” for some Serve America candidates, said Moulton, many of them by razor-thin margins. Dan Feehan, running for Minnesota’s 1st District, was edged by Republican Jim Hagedorn by just over 1,000 votes, Moulton noted. And they could still get some more wins.
Ortiz Jones, vying for Texas’ 23rd against Republican Will Hurd, had been down by a few hundred votes on Wednesday, Moulton said. Before the election, the polls had Ortiz Jones down by 10 points, Moulton said.
“I think Seth has enhanced his influence and enhanced his reputation in the House,” Whouley said.
Moulton said he did not undertake the effort to burnish his resume in the House. He’s not running for a leadership position. He said he was just trying to do the right thing by the country.
When asked if all the travel away from home (he’s a new dad), the events, the canvassing and the meet-and-greets were worth it, Moulton said: “Absolutely, worth every minute.”
“I’m proud of our team. I’m proud of our candidates,” said Moulton, who added he was proud of the country for responding to the service message of the candidates.
Staff writer John Castelluccio contributed to this report.
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @TannerSalemNews.