Former Navy SEAL Eric Greitens won his Republican primary race for governor of Missouri on April 2, 2016, beating out three other candidates and securing his place as the primary challenger to Democrat Chris Koster in the general election.
Greitens secured 35 percent of the vote in the Missouri Republican primary election, and touted his former career as a SEAL throughout the race. Greitens was challenged at one point by anonymous former SEAL teammates, who produced a slick video calling into question his service in the Navy. Greitens strongly denounced the attack, which did not seem to harm his political prospects in the race.
In addition to being a former Navy SEAL, Greitens is also a best-selling author and the founder of a non-profit organization called The Mission Continues. The organization aims to help veterans link up with volunteer opportunities to aid their transition back to civilian life after military service.
Greitens is also a former Rhodes Scholar, White House fellow, and photographer who travelled the world documenting the conditions in which war refugees and homeless children live, according to ABC News. He has an impressive resume, and portrays himself as a conservative outsider in the Missouri governor’s race.
Some in Missouri politics have questioned Greitens’s true political leanings, noting that he was courted by Democrats to run for office before declaring himself a Republican, and that he attended the 2008 Democratic National Convention to hear the speech of then-nominee Barack Obama.
Greitens is not the first former SEAL to ascend to higher political office at the state and national level. He is preceded by Jesse Ventura, who was governor of Minnesota, and Robert Kerry, who served as a senator for the state of Nebraska. Former SEAL officer Ryan Zinke is also a congressman from the state of Montana, and operates a political action committee called SEAL PAC, which aims to elect “like-minded veterans” to Congress.
Former SEAL Kristen Beck, the first person to come out as a transgender former SEAL, was also running for Congress in Maryland, but lost her primary bid against House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer in April.
Former SEAL Robert O’Neill, famous as the self-proclaimed Osama bin Laden shooter, endorsed Greitens in his primary race and, in June, spoke in Missouri on the nominee’s behalf.
This author strongly supports former SEALs—and all veterans, for that matter—in running for political office at the state and national level. The country has moved away from a heavy veteran presence in political office at all levels, and in this author’s opinion, has suffered because of it. Veterans bring a wealth of experience and leadership to the country’s politics, and a finely tuned sense of service to country. They know what it means to serve the country and sacrifice on its behalf. Further, they have experienced the impact of American foreign policy firsthand.
In addition, veterans tend to have a more mature and sophisticated view regarding who America’s enemies truly are, and thus are less prone to see political opponents as “enemies” to be stymied at all costs. When you have truly faced America’s enemies abroad, it is hard to sit in Washington, D.C. and refuse to find common ground with someone who might be in a competing political party. The country could use a little bit of that pragmatism and mission focus right about now.