Common Defense Endorses Slate of Democratic Challengers to GOP Incumbents


WASHINGTON — Common Defense, a grassroots organization of progressive veterans with more than 250,000 members, is proud to announce new candidate endorsements for the 2022 midterm elections who are challenging GOP incumbents: 

Mandela Barnes (WI, U.S. Senate)
Beto O’Rourke (TX Gov)
Kermit Jones (CA-03)
Jay Chen (CA-45)
Gabriel Vasquez (NM-02)
John Lira (TX-23)
Reema Rasool (NY-03)
Ashley Ehasz (PA-01)

Common Defense-endorsed candidates are individuals who we believe best capture the grassroots energy of our political moment to champion a policy agenda rooted in economic, social, and global justice. We are proud to announce this slate of endorsees because Common Defense is deeply committed to and engaged in grassroots organizing, and these candidates are running and leading with these values at the forefront. 

“Common Defense is proud to endorse Democratic candidates who are directly challenging the GOP’s agenda,” said Naveed Shah, Political Director at Common Defense. “These leaders share the same vision as us and aren’t afraid to fight for an equitable and representative democracy, where ‘liberty and justice’ truly is for all.”

About the Candidates:

Mandela Barnes (WI, U.S. Senate)

Mandela was born in Milwaukee in one of the most impoverished and incarcerated Zip codes in the state. He became a Wisconsin State Representative at 27 and stood up to Scott Walker’s anti-union agenda. In 2018, Mandela helped Tony Evers kick Scott Walker out of office and, at 31, became Wisconsin’s first Black Lt. Governor — and only the second Black elected official statewide. He is running for Senate to rebuild the middle class and give everyone a fair shot at the American dream.

Beto O’Rourke (TX Gov)

Beto O’Rourke is a fourth-generation Texan, born and raised in El Paso where he has served as a small business owner, a city council representative and a member of Congress. He founded and currently leads Powered by People, a Texas-based organization that works to expand democracy and produce Democratic victories through voter registration and direct voter engagement. Powered by People has helped register over 250,000 unregistered Texans to vote since its inception in December 2019.

Kermit Jones (CA-3)

After the tragedy of 9/11, Dr. Kermit Jones wanted to do his part and serve his country, so after completing medical school, he joined the U.S. Navy to become a flight surgeon. He deployed to Iraq with a Marine squadron that took injured service members and Iraqi civilians to safety. After returning from Iraq, he served as a White House Fellow under President Obama, working with the Secretary of Health & Human Services to improve quality of care for veterans.

Jay Chen (CA-45)

Jay Chen is a Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Naval Reserves, Trustee for Mt. San Antonio Community College, and a small business owner. He’s running for Congress in California’s 45th Congressional district because Washington is broken. As our community struggles to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, career politicians are more interested in serving themselves and their partisan agenda rather than serving the people who elected them.

Gabriel Vasquez (NM-2)

Gabe is a first-generation American who is running for Congress to be a champion for working families and to build an economy that benefits everyone. Gabe will do this by creating high-quality, good-paying jobs, helping New Mexico families deal with the rising cost of living, ensuring all New Mexicans have access to affordable and high-quality health care, combating climate change, and conserving public lands and natural resources to capitalize on the district’s growing outdoor recreation economy.

John Lira (TX-23)

John is the son of a Mexican American family of four in southeast San Antonio, a United States Marine Corps veteran, a dedicated father and husband, a devoted parishioner at St. Benedict’s Catholic Church, and a proud Texan. Over the past twenty years, John has journeyed from military bases and foreign battlefields to higher education institutions and through federal agencies building the skills, knowledge, and commitment to public service needed to be an effective and visionary leader fighting for working Texans.

Reema Rasool (NY-3)

Reema Rasool is running for Congress because she believes that in this country, the richest country in the world, families should not live in fear of their child or spouse getting sick or breaking a bone because the medical costs could cause them to go bankrupt. Reema believes that health care is a human right and we need Medicare For All. She’s running for Congress because, as someone who has lived in both New York City and on Long Island, Reema has witnessed how climate change and superstorms affect every aspect of our communities. As a business owner, she understands the need to invest in clean energy and training for renewable jobs.

Ashley Ehasz (PA-1)

Ashley Ehasz is a U.S. Army Veteran and Apache helicopter pilot. She grew up in Southeastern Pennsylvania, and at the age of 17 with a waiver in hand, she joined the Army, seeing that as her best option to afford her college education. If elected, Ashley would be the first woman serving in Congress to have graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. As a woman who commanded in the military, Ashley is battle-tested to solve the problems we face every day, and she will be an outspoken advocate for those struggling the most.

Common Defense is distinct from other veteran political organizations in that we endorse and support candidates who reflect the progressive values of our 250,000 members, regardless of whether the candidate served in the military themselves. Our work in 2022 focuses on organizing and training veterans and military families in these districts in order to give them the chance to speak out and challenge the status quo, and to change the false narrative that all veterans are conservatives. The military community is not a political prop to be exploited, and we will not endorse an agenda of greed and hate. 


Common Defense is a grassroots, veteran-led organization that was founded in 2016. We empower veterans to stand up for our communities against the rising tide of racism, hate, and violence, to organize against the entrenched powers that have rigged our economy, and to champion an equitable and representative democracy, where “liberty and justice” truly is for all. For too long, politicians from both political parties have attempted to use veterans as unwilling political props, and Common Defense serves as a home for veterans to organize and speak for themselves and support the candidates who truly share our values.

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