Here’s How The Scientists Running for Office Are Doing

Ed Yong in The Atlantic:

Lead_960Last November was a pivotal moment for the Democrats, who scored a surprisingly large slew of electoral victories in Virginia, New Jersey, and elsewhere. But it was also somewhat of a victory for science, as at least 17 candidates with backgrounds in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (stem) also won. Ralph Northam, who became Virginia’s governor, is a pediatric neurologist. Cheryl Turpin and Hala Ayala, who were both elected to the Virginia State House of Delegates, are respectively a science teacher and a cybersecurity expert. The so-called blue wave was also, at least partly, a nerdy one.

Shaughnessy Naughton, a chemist by training and a former breast-cancer researcher, wants a similar wave to crest in this year’s midterms. A year ago, Naughton founded 314 Action—a political-action committee that supports scientists running for office by helping them to find staff, plan campaigns, and connect with potential donors.

When I first wrote about 314 Action in January 2017, more than 400 people had filled out their recruitment form. At the time Naughton predicted that they’d attract a thousand potential candidates. “In fact, we had over 7,000,” she now tells me. There was a spike in interest after Trump’s inauguration, and another when Trump decided to pull the United States out of the Paris climate agreement. “There’s been one thing after another with this administration that’s engaged our community,” Naughton says.

Beyond stoking outrage, Trump may have motivated stem professionals in a different way. “For better or worse, Trump has changed the perceived necessities about running for office,” says the political consultant Kelly Gibson. “You don’t need to be elected at local or state levels, or even ‘understand’ how politics works, to be elected. It opened things up for people in education, the arts, and the sciences. That’s why there’s been this surge in nontraditional political candidates.”

More here.