He won’t be on the Democratic debate stage Wednesday or Thursday night, but U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts is still campaigning for president.
The Harvard-educated Marine is among roughly two dozen major candidates seeking to challenge President Donald Trump in 2020, though the three-term congressman, who announced he was running in April, has yet to see his fledgling campaign gain traction in a crowded field.
Moulton, 40, has spent his time on the stump like many of the race’s younger candidates highlighting a message of newer leadership. What he’s also banking on is the record of military service that helped him unseat a congressional incumbent and sent him to Washington in the first place.
Raised in the well-off coastal town of Marblehead, Massachusetts, Moulton attended Harvard, where a college pastor helped persuade him he should serve in the military, he has said on the campaign trail. When he decided to join the Marines shortly before graduating in 2001, he expected a brief stint — but the Sept. 11 attacks a few months later sent him to Iraq for what would be the first of four tours of duty. On his final two tours, before he was discharged in 2008 as a captain, he reported directly to Gen. David Petraeus and was charged with encouraging tribal heads to cooperate in the country’s southern region.
Moulton would be awarded two medals for valor when he “fearlessly exposed himself to enemy fire,” but became critical of how the war was waged, writing a New York Times op-ed before his final tour about how more troops were needed in the conflict.
He also told few people about the medals, including his parents, who as college students in the late 1960s were opposed to the Vietnam War. They found out about his honors shortly before the Boston Globe wrote a story during his congressional campaign about how he downplayed his service. “There’s a healthy disrespect among veterans who served on the front lines for people who walk around telling war stories,” Moulton told the paper at the time.
Moulton also briefly spent time at a healthcare startup in Massachusetts and as the managing director of a Texas railroad to develop a high-speed rail route. But he had political ambitions: In 2014, he beat a sitting congressman in the Democratic primary, becoming the first state Democrat in more than two decades to challenge an incumbent in his own party and win.
In his term and a half in the House, he has pushed for more veterans to run for office and been vocal on issues like gun control, sponsoring a bipartisan bill to ban bump stocks. He also backed an unsuccessful attempt to oust Nancy Pelosi from the party’s leadership by supporting U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio. Ryan is also running for president.
And after months of signaling his intentions with New Hampshire and Iowa visits, and a soft-focus memoir, Moulton announced in late April he would join the presidential race.
He’s made military service a key plank of his pitch to voters, dedicating issue pages on his website to renewing “national service” and reconsidering the state’s approach to foreign policy and national security.
About Seth Moulton
▪ Current or most recent position: U.S. representative from Massachusetts since 2015.
▪ Other elected offices: None
▪ Occupation: Marine captain, managing director of the Texas Central Railway
▪ Education: Harvard University, bachelor’s degree in physics and master’s degrees in business and public policy
▪ Age: 40
▪ Residence: Salem, Massachusetts
▪ Family: Wife Liz, daughter Emmy
▪ Campaign website: https://sethmoulton.com/
▪ Fun fact: He proposed to his wife on the office balcony of Republican Rep. Paul Ryan, then the Speaker of the House.
Sources of biographical information: https://sethmoulton.com/, https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/07/28/seth-moulton-congressman-run-president-2020-profile-215428, https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2017/10/who-is-seth-moulton-for.html