2020 candidates' Memorial Day travel zeroes in on early voting states

KENDALL KARSON
2020 candidates' Memorial Day travel zeroes in on early voting states

2020 candidates' Memorial Day travel zeroes in on early voting states originally appeared on abcnews.go.com

A non-stop parade of presidential contenders have already made dozens of trips to the early-nominating states, and this weekend, a number of them are poised to continue crisscrossing Iowa and New Hampshire, celebrating Memorial Day with some of the first voters of the 2020 race.

Throughout the weekend, a slate of candidates are stopping in Iowa, the first-in-the-nation caucus state, including Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Cory Booker, D-N.J.

In New Hampshire, the first-in-the-nation primary state, Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, former Rep. John Delaney, D-Maryland., former Gov. Bill Weld, R-Alaska and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont., are meeting with voters on Friday, Sunday and Monday.

PHOTO: Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks at the Capitol in Washington, May 22, 2019. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Despite the apolitical nature of the holiday, the candidates are hitting the stump on Monday to pitch some of the most coveted voters in between Memorial Day events, according to their campaigns. Booker is set to host a Memorial Day barbecue in Polk County, and Warren is planning to hold a town hall in Des Moines County.

Sanders is holding a series of Ben & Jerry ice cream socials throughout the afternoon in Merrimack, Belknap and Strafford counties; Swalwell heads to Grafton and Carroll counties for meet-and-greets; Delaney joins a Memorial Day parade and a VFW barbecue in Sullivan County before heading to Rockingham County for a Memorial Day wreath laying; and Weld, who will also be in Rockingham County, will attend a Memorial Day parade and a gathering to honor a Vietnam veteran.

(MORE: Pete Buttigieg takes on President Trump over Vietnam War medical deferment)

As one of the earliest candidates to announce a bid for the White House, Delaney has made eight stops to Iowa in 2019 as of May 9, according to the Iowa Starting Line. He’s topped the list, standing ahead of Klobuchar, Swalwell and Warren, who have made six trips, followed by former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and best-selling author Marianne Williamson with five.

The holiday weekend comes six months after dozens of veterans emerged victorious on election night. In last year's midterm elections, 118 veteran candidates launched bids for Congress, and 79 won in November, according to an ABC News analysis of 2018 midterm election results.

(MORE: A surge of female veterans running for Congress gives the 'pink wave' a camouflage tint)

This cohort of veteran members, some elected for the first time as part of a camouflage-tinted "pink wave," were bolstered by service-focused outside groups that seek to draft more veterans to Capitol Hill, like Serve America PAC, which was started by Iraq War veteran-turned-congressman-turned-White House hopeful Seth Moulton.

PHOTO: Congressman Seth Moulton speaks at a Merrimack County Democrats Summer Social at the Swett home in Bow, New Hampshire, July 28, 2018. (Brian Snyder/Reuters, FILE)

Nearly a year before the 2018 midterms, the DCCC expected 30 or 40 of its candidates to be veterans, a major uptick from recent cycles. At that time, only four female veterans served in Congress, including Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, Gabbard, and Rep. Martha McSally, R-Ariz.

This cycle, three candidates with backgrounds in the military are vying for the top of the Democratic ticket in the 2020 presidential contest.

In 2009 and 2013, Buttigieg was commissioned as a U.S. Navy intelligence officer during his mayoral tenure – opting to take a leave of absence to serve in Afghanistan in 2014 for a seven-month deployment. He earned the Joint Service Commendation Medal for his counterterrorism work.

PHOTO: Democratic presidential candidate and mayor of South Bend, Indiana Pete Buttigieg speaks to a reporter at a pro-choice rally at the Supreme Court on May 21, 2019, in Washington, D.C. (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

Buttigieg is expected to be in his hometown for South Bend’s Memorial Day parade, according to his campaign.

When asked what Memorial Day means to him, he said, "Personally, what I think about is the people I served with who did not make it home. And as one of those who fortunately did make it home, I think a lot about how I can try to live a life that is worthy of the sacrifices of people from the folks I was down range with to people generations and even centuries before me. All of whom paid the ultimate price in order to make the life and the security that we know here in America possible.”

Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard was commissioned as a second lieutenant and is the first state official to voluntarily step down from public office to serve in a war zone when she volunteered to deploy with her fellow soldiers in 2004 while in the Hawaii Army National Guard, according to her official website.

Gabbard said some politicians exploit the real meaning of the holiday.

“So nothing angers me more than the hypocrisy exhibited every Memorial Day by warmongering politicians and media pundits feigning sympathy for those who paid the ultimate price in service to our country, while simultaneously advocating for more counterproductive regime change wars and the new Cold War and arms race," she said. "The true way to honor our troops who have sacrificed their lives for our country is to work to prevent unnecessary costly wars, which will result in the death of more of my brothers and sisters in uniform.

"Memorial Day is a time to remember that war should only be waged as a very last resort to keep the American people safe,” she added.

PHOTO: Democratic presidential candidate Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) waves to a crowd at the 'She The People Presidential Forum,' April 24, 2019, in Houston, Texas. (Sergio Flores/Getty Images, FILE)

Moulton is a former Marine who served four combat tours in Iraq. The Massachusetts Democrat is also embarking next week on a "Veterans Mental Health Tour," which will feature a slew of town halls focused on veterans mental health, across several early-voting states.

Earlier this week, Moulton recorded a video remembering his friend and fellow Marine James Hassell, whom the congressman called his "hero" after he carried a gravely-wounded member of their platoon out of a building under attack.

"James was still troubled by the wounds of war in the form of post-traumatic stress," Moulton said in the video, to be released by VoteVets. "He went to the VA, but rather than give him the counseling resources he wanted, they just gave him drugs. So many medicines that James died of a heart attack at the age of 30. It's a good reminder that the wounds of war sometimes follow us home and although James didn't die that day in combat, he died from the wounds sustained from that day. So we're thinking of you James."

(MORE: Meet Tulsi Gabbard, the first Hindu member of Congress and a 2020 candidate)

Since the historic wave of female candidates landed in Congress, bringing a crest of veterans with them, a re-energized effort to engage more veterans in politics at all levels of government is underway.

A group of freshman female lawmakers who served in the military or worked in federal intelligence agencies are bringing their political muscle to recruit more women service leaders to run for office.

(MORE: Women are running for office in historic numbers. Here are 10 female candidates to watch.)

Congresswomen Elaine Luria, Abigail Spanberger, Chrissy Houlahan, Mikie Sherrill, and Elissa Slotkin launched a new group, the Service First Women’s Victory Fund, to fundraise, host speaking events and policy discussions to elevate the profiles of a new class of female Democratic candidates with national security backgrounds. The group will also create a series of policy forums to "help elevate the profiles of those already in office."

The groups aim to change the makeup of Congress and usher in more "servant leadership" into the political landscape in 2020.

ABC News’ MaryAlice Parks and Justin Gomez contributed to this report.