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Scientists Storm the Gates of Capitol Hill in Midterm Election Bids

march for science in portland

Jess Phoenix, a geologist and volcanologist running for California’s 25th Congressional District seat, believes climate change is “not science fiction, it’s science fact.” It’s also one of the tenets of the Democrat’s campaign to unseat incumbent Republican Rep. Steve Knight.

Phoenix is only one of more than a dozen scientists who have moved to the political arena specifically because of the climate change debate and more generally because of the election of President Trump, who famously tweeted in May 2013, “It’s freezing outside, where the hell is global warming?”

“I was moved to step out of my work boots and into the race for Congress because people like Donald Trump and my representative Steve Knight are threatening that future by destroying some of the most basic things we all agree are important,” Phoenix wrote on her website.

“Education, scientific research, disaster preparedness, critical parts of our communities like roads and bridges, national parks, and wildlife are all under assault,” Phoenix added. “Trump and Knight both deny the science of climate change, which impacts our economy, health and way of life.”

However, Knight, a member of the House Science Committee, was one of 46 House Republicans who joined Democrats to block a proposal to remove a requirement that the Department of Defense study how climate change impacted the nation’s security.

“Most people, and probably every scientist, would conclude based on that piece of evidence that he is not a climate change denier,” Matt Rexroad, a Knight campaign spokesman, told Mother Jones in an email.

But the argument over whether humans are responsible for climate change is only one reason that Phoenix and other scientists are moving into politics. The primary cause of their concern is Trump and what they see as his rejection of science.

314 Action, a political group dedicated to the “pro-science resistance,” is committed to “electing more STEM candidates to office, advocating for evidence-based policy solutions to issues like climate change, and fighting the Trump administration's attacks on science.”

More than 100 people with STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) backgrounds signed up for an informational webinar on how to run for political office in January.

“The fact that we received this response without a paid media buy is evidence of how hungry the STEM community is for a dog in the fight,” said Ted Bordelon, communications director for 314 Action.

“In what has been deemed a post-truth world following the election of Donald Trump, it is incredibly heartening to see such a groundswell of support from the STEM community,” said Shaughnessy Naughton, the founder of 314 Action. “It is time the STEM community has a greater voice in the halls of power.”

University of Mississippi biochemistry professor Randy Watkins is another of the STEM candidates running for Congress as a Democrat.