Organization Looks to Support ‘Service Veterans’ Seeking Office

The Kendall Square-based organization New Politics, which supports veterans and other service-oriented people seeking elected office, is looking for success in its second election cycle.

The organization supported five service veterans during its first election cycle of activity in 2014. One of those candidates, three-time Harvard degree holder and Iraq War veteran Seth W. Moulton ’01, was elected as a Massachusetts representative to the U.S. Congress.

Now, the non-partisan organization is guiding 13 candidates, at least five of whom have ties to Harvard, through elections for a wide range of political offices. Some candidates are running for Congress, while others are bidding for a spot on their local city council.

Emily Cherniack, the founder of New Politics and a former AmeriCorps volunteer, said she started the organization in order to help elect individuals who have worked in organizations that require an intensive service commitment, like the U.S. military or the Peace Corps. She said that her experience in City Year, a volunteer program within AmeriCorps that was founded by a Harvard graduate, inspired her to work with like-minded people.

“They’re super humble,” Cherniack said of individuals who have volunteered for intensive service. “They’re mission driven. They have experience bringing diverse groups of people together to achieve a goal bigger than themselves.”

Cherniack hopes to ensure that “service veterans” have adequate resources to compete with mainstream politicians, many of whom have more support from partisan political organizations. On the day-to-day basis, she recruits prospective candidates from the service sector, connects them with resources, and advises them in the election process.

Sean L. Barney, an Iraq War veteran who received his master’s degree from Harvard, is running for Delaware’s lone congressional seat. Barney said he chose to work with New Politics for this election because the organization has helped him navigate a “difficult process.”

“Emily plays a vital role in helping people who have a demonstrated commitment to service, but may not have run for office or known the ins and outs of the process, to navigate that process,” he said.

Cherniack found another candidate, Harvard Kennedy School graduate Meagan W. Holman, through a shared connection at City Year. Holman served in the organization after college and said she thinks the experience gave her the skills required to be a successful politician. She is running for a position on the city council of Milwaukee, Wis.

“City Year really teaches you a lot of things that can be transferred really easily into a career in politics,” Holman said. “You learn a lot of event management, team building, and really good professional skills that are needed in the public sector.”

Indeed, both Cherniack and Barney said they believe it is important for America’s government to include people who have served.

“[Service] teaches you a lesson about missions that are larger than yourself and teaches you that there are causes larger than yourself that are worth incurring personal cost for,” Barney said.

—Staff writer Daniel P. Wood can be reached at daniel.wood@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @DanWood145.

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