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'With Honor' Group Works To Elect Veterans


In primaries across the country this past week, there was victory at the polls for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, like pilot Mary Jennings Hegar, a Texas Democrat, and former Navy SEAL Dan Crenshaw, a Texas Republican. Helping vets run successful races is a new political action committee called With Honor. Rye Barcott is the CEO. And this Memorial Day weekend, we wanted to know why he founded the organization.

RYE BARCOTT: You know, it's really an answer to maybe our biggest challenge that we face in the country. I had the great privilege of serving in the Marine Corps and saw some of the turmoil and violence that tribalism and division causes around the world. And I would have never imagined that, you know, similar forces would be present here on our homefront. But the tribalism and the political polarization is, you know, ripping our country apart. And this feels like, to me, a way to serve again - to bring together an organization - withhonor.org - that is helping to lower the barriers to entry, which are now so high because of the soaring costs of our elections, for post-9/11 veterans.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What is it about being a veteran that makes them better candidates in your view, that makes them likely to be less polarized and able to sort of reach across the aisle than those currently serving in Congress?

BARCOTT: That should be noted up front, too - that not all veterans are necessarily part of the solution. But what veterans bring is a commitment to service. They've served something that's larger than themselves, and they know what it means to put country first. And so what withhonor.org does is we actually take a very unique approach. We're a cross-partisan organization, so we're backing veterans who served and sign our pledge, which is on withhonor.org, to serve with integrity, civility, and courage.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What happens if they break the pledge? I mean, how do you keep them accountable?

BARCOTT: We're a new organization, but we have some really specific actions that veterans have to agree to when they sign the pledge, and they can be measured by the way that they vote, by the way that they co-sponsor bills. Veterans could potentially be delisted from the organization.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So you've endorsed 35 candidates. How did you choose out of the 200 that are running across the United States?

BARCOTT: Yeah. We went through a really extensive process that looked at the background of the candidates and also their commitment to sign our pledge. And then we interview our candidates, and we select them based on their willing - their ability to meet the character traits and then their - also their ability to win their elections.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: How do you think your candidates are going to do in 2018?

BARCOTT: I think they're going to do great. We have just had tremendous momentum raising money for the organization and putting it to work. We had two great wins this week with Amy McGrath in Kentucky - Democrat - one of the first woman to fly fighter jets, and Dan Crenshaw - a Navy SEAL who lost his eye on his fourth combat tour - in Texas. They're doing it for the right reasons. They're doing it to serve. And they're doing it because our country - this is not sustainable. The polarization is not sustainable. That's part of what has led one of our advisers - professor Michael Porter, famous business strategist - to conclude that the polarization in the United States is the single-greatest threat, to our economic competitiveness long-term. We've got to do something about it and these folks are stepping up to answer the call to serve again.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: CEO and founder of With Honor, Rye Barcott, thank you very much.

BARCOTT: Thanks so much, Lulu. Great to be on. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.