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314 Action Hopes to be the ‘EMILY’s List for Scientists’

Endorsements come with PAC check and potential IE investments

314 Action is rolling out four more endorsements of Democratic challengers Monday. The organization has already backed Nevada Rep. Jacky Rosen’s Senate bid.  (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
314 Action is rolling out four more endorsements of Democratic challengers Monday. The organization has already backed Nevada Rep. Jacky Rosen’s Senate bid.  (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

An organization dedicated to electing scientists and STEM professionals is endorsing four more Democratic House challengers Monday.

Monday’s congressional endorsements — part of a broader rollout of state and local candidates – comes in traditionally GOP seats, two of which may look more competitive for Democrats in 2018, while two others still look more challenging to flip.

Endorsees will receive support from the PAC (314 Action Fund) and will be touted to the group’s 225,000 members, including 40,000 contributors. 314 Action has raised about $1 million this year and is hoping to raise between $5 and $7 million for the 2018 cycle to allow it to make independent expenditures.

Since its candidate training recruitment efforts began in January, 314 Action has been in touch with 6,000 scientists and STEM professionals interested in running.

In just one race so far (California’s 39th), the group has had to choose among multiple scientists. It backed pediatrician Mai-Khanh Tran, who is among five Democrats hoping to take on 13-term GOP Rep. Ed Royce. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race Lean Republican.

Another endorsed candidate, Marine veteran Roger Dean Huffstetler, is running against freshman Rep. Tom Garrett, a Freedom Caucus member from Virginia’s 5th District. A Silicon Valley entrepreneur, Huffstetler is the former chief of staff to Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton, whom 314 Action is also endorsing. The 5th District race is rated Likely Republican

Aerospace engineer and retired Army officer Joseph Kopser is vying to take on Texas Rep. Lamar Smith. The 16-term Republican is the chairman of the Science, Space and Technology Committee and has said he does not believe in man-made climate change. The 21st District race is rated Solid Republican.

Physician Kathie Allen is running in Utah’s 3rd District, another tough seat for Democrats. Allen, a former vice-speaker of the House of Delegates, considered taking on Republican Jason Chaffetz, the former chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, before he vacated the seat earlier this year. She secured the Democratic nod in June ahead of this November’s special election. The race is rated Solid Republican

Also receiving 314 Action’s backing on Monday are three “STEM trailblazers” already in the House. Besides Moulton, 314 Action is backing California Reps. Ami Bera and Raul Ruiz. Both California Democrats are targets of the National Republican Congressional Committee in 2018.

314 Action had previously endorsed a handful of Democratic House and Senate challengers. That included Nevada Rep. Jacky Rosen, who’s running for Senate in 2018, Chrissy Houlahan in Pennsylvania’s 6th District and Hans Keirstead in California’s 48th District. New York Reps. Louise Slaughter and Paul Tonko and California Rep. Jerry McNerney also received 314 Action’s backing.

The group was formed in the summer of 2016.

“When the world changed dramatically is when we kicked into high gear,” executive director Joshua Morrow said, referring to the November elections. 

314 Action President and Board President Shaughnessy Naughton said in a statement Monday that “a war on facts being waged in the White House and science is squarely in the eye sights of those who wish to muddy the waters.” 

“The candidates we are endorsing today are clear evidence that the scientific community has had enough. 314 Action is proud to stand with their campaigns and what they represent — a call for evidence-based policymaking and a return to science, facts and reason in the halls of power,” Naughton said.

Naughton is a former Democratic House candidate. She lost primary bids for Pennsylvania’s 8th District in both 2014 and 2016. The network she tried to build during that last campaign served as the foundation for 314 Action. 

This year, Morrow said 314 Action has been in close communication with the DCCC and EMILY’s List.

“Our goal is not to get through 2018 and that’s it, but to eventually be an EMILY’s List for scientists,” Morrow said.But just as women often have to be asked multiple times to run for office, convincing scientists to run for office isn’t easy. “The biggest challenge for us as an organization is that for a lot of these scientists to run, they’ve got to walk away from their careers,” Morrow said. Directing a lab or holding a tenured track professorship isn’t conducive to taking off two years to run for Congress. It’s not like being a lawyer, Morrow said, for whom running for office “is encouraged.”“Part of our goal is to create that culture” among scientists, he added.

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