WASHINGTON — The top Republican on the House defense spending panel narrowly won re-election on Monday, ending nearly a week of speculation as to whether he would return to Congress.
Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Calif., is the ranking member on the House Appropriations Committee’s defense panel and is in line to chair the powerful military spending subcommittee if Republicans win control of the House.
He faced a difficult re-election fight from Democratic challenger Will Rollins, a former federal prosecutor who focused on counterterrorism and counterintelligence cases in southern California.
Redistricting by state officials for California’s 41st congressional district left Calvert with a less favorable election map than in past years. Calvert, the longest-serving Republican member of California’s congressional delegation, had won each of his campaigns over the last decade by comfortable margins.
Calvert’s opponent attacked his vote against certification of the 2020 presidential election results. Rollins, who is gay, also emphasized Calvert’s anti-LGBT record. California redistricting added Palm Springs — a city with one of the highest concentration of LGBT voters in the country — to Calvert’s district.
Despite the narrow victory, Calvert’s win provides stability for the House Appropriations Committee. Along with House Armed Services Committee ranking member Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., Calvert will serve as the point person for debates next year over the size of the Defense Department’s budget and military spending priorities.
As the Republican leader on the panel, Calvert’s campaign received considerable financial support from the defense industry. Calvert received at least $70,000 from the top five defense contractors – Lockheed Martin, Raytheon Technologies, Boeing, Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics – for the 2022 election cycle.
The defense contractors paused political donations after the violent attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election on January 6, but quickly resumed contributions to lawmakers across the aisle, including Republicans such as Calvert who voted against certifying the election results.
Last week, a key Democrat on the defense appropriations subcommittee — Democrat Marcy Kaptur of Ohio — won another closely watched race against Republican challenger and Air Force veteran J.R. Majewski.
Majewski came under fire for apparently fabricating part of his military service record.
Although he initially claimed to have served as an Air Force combat veteran in Afghanistan, military combat records obtained by the Associated Press did not document any service there and instead revealed that he had helped load and unload aircraft in Qatar. The records also indicated that the Air Force did not let Majewski reenlist in large part because he was stopped drunk driving while serving in Japan – and was not involved in a brawl as he initially claimed.
The revelations prompted the National Republican Campaign Committee to pull pro-Majewski ads from the district in September, creating an even more favorable battleground for Kaptur.
Former president Donald Trump had endorsed both Calvert and Majewski. Many of the other Trump-backed nominees for Congress lost to Democrats as Republicans fell well-short of expectations despite pre-election polling suggesting that they would take the House in a landslide.
Bryant Harris is the Congress reporter for Defense News. He has covered U.S. foreign policy, national security, international affairs and politics in Washington since 2014. He has also written for Foreign Policy, Al-Monitor, Al Jazeera English and IPS News.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.