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Thirteen Duke alumni seek seats in Congress this year

This year, 13 Duke alumni from across the nation are running for Congress.

Twelve of them are seeking seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and one is vying to be a U.S. Senator. Four are incumbents facing re-election, while others are political newcomers. Many still face primary elections.

Although no U.S. Senate seat nor the gubernatorial office in North Carolina is holding elections this year, all 435 seats of the House will be up for grabs. Duke students, Durham residents and the rest of the nation will go to the polls November 6.

Rep. Bradley Byrne, Trinity ’77
Alabama’s 1st District, Republican

Byrne is running for a third term, representing his hometown of Mobile and other surrounding areas. While at Duke, Byrne was an active member of the Associated Students of Duke University—the precursor to today’s Duke Student Government—during which he pushed for better financial aid and helped create the prestigious Reginaldo Howard Memorial Scholarship, named after the first black president of ASDU. He graduated from Duke with a degree in public policy and history.

Rep. Mo Brooks, Trinity ’75
Alabama’s 5th District, Republican

Brooks is seeking a fifth term in the House of Representatives. Brooks was ranked the least likely to work across the party lines by the annual Bipartisan Index—a characterization which he has denied. He graduated from Duke in three years, majoring in economics and political science, before returning to Alabama to pursue his legal and political career.

Dr. Kelli Ward, Trinity ’91
State of Arizona, Republican

Called “Arizona’s Lady Trump” by Salon, Ward is an osteopathic physician and former state senator making her second bid for the U.S. Senate. She lost a primary challenge to Sen. John McCain in 2016 but is now seeking to fill Sen. Jeff Flake’s open seat in the toss-up race. Ward studied psychology at Duke, and she was a Living Groups editor of the Chanticleer.

Mike Levin, Law School ’05
California’s 49th District, Democrat

Levin is an environmental lawyer and former energy executive running in one of the most competitive districts in the country. The district is seen as decisive in controlling the House in 2018. He faces a crowded field of 15 other candidates. 

Rep. Scott Peters, Trinity ’80
California’s 52nd District, Democrat

Peters is a third-term congressman defending a seat that represents much of San Diego. Before becoming a congressman, he served as president of the San Diego City Council and chair of the Port of San Diego. At Duke, he was a resident advisor of Gilbert-Addoms and graduated with a double major in political science and economics.

Rep. Dan Lipinski, Ph.D. ’98
Illinois’ 3rd District, Democrat

Lipinski is a former political science professor who is running for an eighth term to represent the Chicago-area district, inherited from his 11-term incumbent father. Known as a conservative Democrat with anti-abortion views who previously voted against the DREAM act—but in late 2017 said he would support protection for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients—Lipinski narrowly defeated a primary challenge from the left and will face a Republican Holocaust denier denounced by his own party as a Nazi this November. Lipinski received a Ph.D. in political science from the Graduate School.

Jesse Colvin, Trinity ’06
Maryland’s 1st District, Democrat

Colvin is a political newcomer and one of six Democrats hoping to unseat the Republican incumbent. He is a management consultant and retired Army intelligence officer who served four tours in Afghanistan. He graduated from Duke with a degree in history.

Seth Grossman, Trinity ’71
New Jersey’s 2nd District, Republican

Grossman is an attorney and a former Atlantic City legislator. At Duke, he was the co-founder and president of the University chapter of Young Americans for Freedom, a conservative group, through which he battled what he perceived as the liberal elements on campus: “not only [Students for a Democratic Society] but also the Chronicle, the Y[M-YWCA], ASDU, President Terry Sanford and two-thirds of the faculty.” He studied political science at Duke.

Dan McCready, Trinity ’05
North Carolina’s 9th District, Democrat

McCready is a retired Marine Corps captain and investment manager who is running for the open N.C. seat. Casting himself as an outsider, he is a Democrat who rejects many Democratic positions, even going so far as to renounce House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and call Washington a “swamp.” He graduated from Duke with a degree in economics.

Paul Wright, Law School ’75
North Carolina’s 12th District, Republican

Wright is a former Superior Court judge running to unseat Charlotte’s Democratic incumbent. Wright has vowed to reverse Supreme Court decisions legalizing abortion and same-sex marriage and has denounced what he calls a “deChristianization” of the United States. He believes that “Christianity should be rightfully restored to its proper place” in government, supporting its codification into the N.C. Constitution. Wright graduated from the Law School in 1975.

Ken Harbaugh, Trinity ’96
Ohio’s 7th District, Democrat

Harbaugh is a retired Navy lieutenant who is challenging the Republican incumbent in a district President Donald Trump carried by 30 points. As a pilot, he flew reconnaissance missions in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Korean Peninsula. He graduated from Duke as a biology major, and he was a member of the selective living group Round Table.

Todd Litton, Trinity ’92
Texas’ 2nd District, Democrat

Litton is a former education nonprofit director and investment professional seeking to represent the Houston-area district. His core issues include flood prevention and reservoir repair in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, as well as infrastructure protection in anticipation of climate change. He graduated from Duke in 1992 with a degree in English.

Dr. Shannon Hader, Residency ’00
Washington’s 8th District, Democrat

Hader is a former senior official at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where she oversaw its global response toward HIV and tuberculosis. She completed her medicine-pediatrics residency at Duke University Medical Center.

Editor's note: This article was updated Monday afternoon to clarify the specific piece of immigration legislation referred to in Lipinski's section and that he has since expressed a different view on the issue.


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