Ed Yong in The Atlantic:
A few Fridays ago, Tracy Van Houten drove to a registrar’s office to pick up the paperwork she would need to run for Congress. Doing so would mean giving up her role as an aerospace engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory—a dream job that she had held for 13 years. Her plan was to pick up the papers, think about them over the weekend, and make a decision afterwards.
Sitting outside the building, she wavered, and decided to call her senators to voice her opposition against Betsy DeVos—the since-confirmed nominee for Secretary of Education. She got a busy tone. She tried again. Another busy tone. “It was at the fifth one that I thought: Okay, I need to get to Washington and get a seat at the table,” she says. “That motivated me to get into the building and get on with it.”
Van Houten is now officially running to represent the 34th Congressional District of California in the U.S. House. The seat’s former occupant, Xavier Becerra, was appointed as attorney general of California last December, and 23 candidates are now vying to replace him in a special election, to be held in April. The roster includes experienced politicians, activists, and lawyers. Van Houten, who is something of a wildcard, is the only rocket scientist.