SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Nearly two dozens veterans and military family members from around the U.S. are at Syracuse University for an intense week of learning about running for political office.

With initial support from JPMorgan Chase & Co., Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families and the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs are collaborating to hold this new program.

The initiative is designed to act on the opportunity for civic engagement and public service demonstrated by those who have served the cause of the nation’s defense.

Despite gains in the 2018 election cycle from a recent historic low, veteran representation in Congress has declined from more than 75% in the 1960s, to 19.1% today.

Marcee Davis, a Navy vet from the San Diego area, says, “I never really thought about running for office before, but I was interested. No one really tells you how to run a campaign, where to start and how that affects your family.”

Dr. Nick Armstrong, Senior Director for Research and Analytics at SU IVMF, says, “It’s a group of folks who are really right at starting to dip their toes in the water, have identified maybe a seat or a race that they might be interested in locally and are just trying to pull it all together.”

The program includes online coursework and now a one-week intensive residency.

The curriculum will cover election law, party politics and public policy, creating, managing and leading campaign teams, campaign finance, understanding voters, message development, mobilizing volunteer teams, responding to citizen issues and conflict management, among others topics.

“I think everything that I have done post-military is attributed to my military experience,” says Army vet Dr. Larry Wallace Jr.

In just the past two years, Wallace Jr. has risen from the Planning Commission, City Council and is about to be sworn in as the new Mayor of the City of Manor, Texas.

“What I’ve been kind of missing from the military, I’m able to now reinvigorate that, I’m able to reconnect to that through politics,” he tells NewsChannel 9.

Armstrong says, “Winning is the ultimate, but we want to see these participants go off and be more engaged in civic life in general, so that for us is success.”

In this first year of the program, 600 veterans or military family members from around the country expressed interest, 160 applied and that was narrowed down to the 22 in the inaugural class.

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