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The science candidates: races to watch in 2018

The 2018 U.S. elections have attracted unusual interest from the scientific community—and some researchers have decided to throw their hats into the ring. This table provides thumbnail sketches of some the candidates and races that the research community is watching, arranged by the dates of their state primaries. It is by no means complete and will be expanded and updated regularly throughout the political cycle, which ends with the general election on 6 November. Let us know if you think there are other candidates we should be following, and why they warrant the community’s attention. Email dmalakof@aaas.org. (Table updated 12 September; go to bottom of page for most recently completed elections.)

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Primaries held

Illinois—20 March

DistrictThe science candidatesUpdate
3Representative Daniel Lipinski (D), senior member of House of Representatives science committeeLipinski narrowly defeated Marie Newman, who had hoped her pro-choice, progressive agenda would resonate in this solidly Democrat district. The 7-term incumbent, a former political science professor and staunch supporter of academic research, now has clear sailing in November.
6Sean Casten (D), clean energy technnologist; Activist Kelly Mazeski (D), former product development chemist Casten edged Mazewski in a seven-person race, using mostly his own money to garner 30% of the vote. His bid to topple 6-term incumbent Rep. Peter Roskam (R) is expected to be one of the costliest in state history, and Roskam is seen as vulnerable in purple district that went for Hillary Clinton in 2016.
14Matt Brolley (D), civil engineer, and George Weber (D), retired chemical engineerLauren Underwood, a nurse and health policy aide in the Obama administration, cruised to victory with 57% of the vote. Brolley ran a distant second, with 13%, and Weber was among the stragglers in a seven-person field. Rep. Randy Hultgren (R), a social conservative and booster of basic energy research, is favored in this solidly Republican district.
Status is taken from The Cook Political Report

North Carolina—8 May

DistrictThe science candidatesUpdate
4Richard Watkins (D), Ph.D. virologist and founder of a nonprofit science policy action network Watkins received only 6% of the vote as 15-term incumbent David Price rolled to victory in the Democratic primary. Price is heavy favorite to defeat Republican Steve Loor.
Status is taken from The Cook Political Report

Ohio—8 May

DistrictThe science candidatesUpdate
16Aaron Godfrey (D), aerospace engineerGodfrey finished fifth in six-person race won by Susan Moran Palmer. Republican Anthony Gonzalez is favorite for open seat in solidly red district.
Status is taken from The Cook Political Report

Pennsylvania—15 May

DistrictThe science candidatesUpdate
5Molly Sheehan (D), biophysics postdoc at the University of Pennsylvania(Solid D) Sheehan finished fourth in 10-person race, with 10% of the vote. Lawyer Mary Gay Scanlon led the field, with 28%, and will be a heavy favorite in November against Pearl Kim, who ran unopposed.
6Chrissy Houlahan (D), industrial engineer, *(Likely D): Neither Houlahan nor her Republican opponent in November, tax attorney Greg McCauley, faced any challengers for the open seat. A prodigious fundraiser, she is favored to win this contest between first-time candidates.
10Eric Ding (D), public health scientist*(Likely R) Ding finished third, with 18% of vote, in four-person race captured by George Scott, a pastor and former military intelligence officer. Two-term R incumbent Scott Perry enjoys a big edge in money and name recognition.
* Endorsed by 314 Action; Status is taken from The Cook Political Report

Texas — 22 May (runoff)

DistrictThe science candidatesUpdate
7Jason Westin (D), clinical oncologist; *(Tossup) Westin finished third in seven-person Democratic race on 6 March, behind Lizzie Fletcher and Laura Moser. In the 22 May runoff, Fletcher beat Moser handily and will go up in November against John Culberson, a nine-term Republican incumbent who chairs a key science spending panel.
21Mary Wilson (D), former math professor; Joseph Kopser (D), engineer/transit entrepreneur; *(Likely R) Kopser easily defeated Wilson in 22 May runoff after losing to her narrowly in 6 March Democratic primary. He now faces Chip Roy, who emerged from an 18-person Republican scrum to succeed the retiring Rep. Lamar Smith, now chair of the House science committee. Roy is a former chief of staff to Republican Senator Ted Cruz, up for re-election against Democrat Rep. Beto O’Rourke.
36Jon Powell (D), retired geologistIn 6 March primary, Powell lost 72% to 28% to rock radio personality Dayna Steele, whose husband is a retired NASA pilot with a physics Ph.D. Incumbent Brian Babin (R) ran unopposed in a very conservative district.
* Endorsed by 314 Action; Status is taken from The Cook Political Report

California—5 June

DistrictThe science candidatesUpdate
21T. J. Cox (D), civil engineer, entrepreneur*(Lean R) Cox, who works with bioenergy startups, hopes the district’s heavy turnout for Hillary Clinton in 2016 will help him unseat Republican incumbent David Valadao.
25Jess Phoenix (D), geologist(Tossup) Finished last, with 6%.The state’s top-two primary system means incumbent Republican Steve Knight, who won 53% of the vote, will face Democrat Katie Hill, a housing activist who edged out Bryan Caforio, 20% to 18%. Hill hopes district’s 2016 preference for Hillary Clinton foreshadows a Democratic victory in November.
39Mai Khanh Tran (D), pediatrician, *(Tossup) Finished eighth, with 5%, in 15-person field vying for open seat after the retirement announcement of Republican Ed Royce. His long-time aide, Young Kim, won 22% of the vote and will battle Democrat Gil Cisneros, who received 19%. Tran provided half of her million-dollar war chest, but fell far short of the largely self-funded campaign of lottery winner Cisneros.
45Brian Forde (D), tech entrepreneur, *(Leans R) Finished last, with 6%, trailing incumbent Republican Mimi Walters, who won 53% of the vote in primary marked by lavish spending. Two Democratic law professors vied for second place, with Katie Porter edging Dave Min, 20% to 17%, for the right to challenge Walters in November.
48Hans Keirstead (D), former stem cell researcher and biotech CEO, *(Tossup) Keirstead lost by 125 votes to Democrat Henry Rouda for second place in the top-two open primary. Rouda’s 17% of the vote trailed Republican incumbent Dana Rohrabacher, who led a crowded field with 30%. After an acrimonious campaign, Keirstead has pledged to support Rouda, a businessman Democrats hope can win this longtime GOP seat in Orange County.
* Endorsed by 314 Action; Status is taken from The Cook Political Report

Iowa—5 June

DistrictThe science candidatesUpdate
1Courtney Rowe (D), systems aerospace engineer(Tossup) Finished last, in three-person race, with 7%. State legislator Abby Finkenauer easily won the chance to oust Republican incumbent Rod Blum in what could be a referendum on President Donald Trump’s policies.
Status is taken from The Cook Political Report

Mississippi—5 June

DistrictThe science candidatesUpdate
1Randy Wadkins (D), biochemistry professor(Solid R) Still on the faculty at Ole Miss, Wadkins is hoping a Democratic wave will give him a chance to topple Republican incumbent Trent Kelly in this northwest district, where he enjoys huge advantage in fundraising, name recognition, and demographics.
Status is taken from The Cook Political Report

Montana—5 June

DistrictThe science candidatesUpdate
at-largeGrant Kier (D), geologist/geophysical engineer, *(Likely R) Lost his early lead and fell to third, with 24%, in a tight race won by former state legislator Kathleen Williams, who captured 33%. Williams, who has a background in public lands and resource management, hopes for a boost from the “Me Too” movement in taking on freshman Republican incumbent Greg Gianforte in this statewide district.
* Endorsed by 314 Action; Status is taken from The Cook Political Report

Nevada—12 June

DistrictThe science candidatesUpdate
3Guy Pinjuv (D), Ph.D. forestry management(Tossup) He finished last, collecting 3% of the vote in a seven-person Democratic race won easily by philanthropist Susie Lee. She’ll battle Republican Danny Tarkanian, who ended his bid to challenge incumbent Senator Dean Heller in the primary at the urging of President Donald Trump, who is backing him.
Status is taken from The Cook Political Report

Virginia—12 June

DistrictThe science candidatesUpdate
5Roger Huffstetler (D), tech entrepreneur, * (Likely R) On 5 May he finished a distant third to journalist Leslie Cockburn in a Democratic Party convention. On 2 June, Republican activists chose Denver Riggleman to replace freshman incumbent Tom Garrett, who on 28 May announced he was an alcoholic and would not run for re-election.
10Julia Biggins (D), biotech scientist(Tossup) She finished last, earning 3% of the vote in a six-person Democratic race won by state Senator Jennifer Wexton. Incumbent Republican Barbara Comstock is trying to hold onto a seat that Democrats think can be flipped.
* Endorsed by 314 Action; Status is taken from The Cook Political Report

Maryland—26 June

DistrictThe science candidatesStatus/Race at a glance
6Aruna Miller (D), transit engineer, *(Solid D) Wine and spirits magnate David Trone used $11 million of his own money to defeat Miller by 10 points. His gerrymandered district makes him the favorite in the general election against Republican Amie Hoeber, who is also largely self-funded. Both ran unsuccessfully in 2016.
* Endorsed by 314 Action; Status is taken from The Cook Political Report

New York—26 June

DistrictThe science candidatesUpdate
1Elaine DiMasi (D), ex-Brookhaven National Lab physicist1(Likely R) DiMasi finished last, with 6% of the Democratic vote, in a five-person race won by real estate developer Perry Gershon. His personal wealth is expected to help him keep pace with Republican incumbent Lee Zeldin in what is expected to be a costly contest this fall.
Status is taken from The Cook Political Report

Utah—26 June

DistrictThe science candidatesUpdate
4Thomas Taylor (D), Ph.D. robotics engineer(Leans R) Lost to Ben McAdams, mayor of Salt Lake County, who captured 72% of vote at state party convention on 28 April, thus avoiding a primary contest. Polls show McAdams is running neck-and-neck with incumbent Republican Mia Love, who ran unopposed.
Status is taken from The Cook Political Report

Washington—7 August

DistrictThe science candidatesUpdate
8Shannon Hader (D), former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention senior epidemiologistHader finished fourth, with 13%. Republican Dino Rossi led the crowded field with 43%, and Democrat Kim Schrier, with 19%, grabbed the second spot in the top-two primary. But Schrier, a pediatrician, hopes the 50% share captured by the four Democrats in the race portends victory in November in this purple district for a seat being vacated by 7-term Republican Dave Reichert.
Status is taken from The Cook Political Report

Michigan—7 August

DistrictThe science candidatesUpdate
6Rich Eichholz (D), Ph.D. biologist, biotech exec, and energy consultantEichholz finished last in a four-person Democrat field, with 13%. The winner, physician Matt Longjohn, has been endorsed by 314 Action in his attempt to unseat 16-term incumbent Republican Fred Upton, who ran unopposed. Pundits say the race has shifted from a tossup to a likely GOP hold.
Status is taken from The Cook Political Report

Missouri—7 August

DistrictThe science candidatesUpdate
4Hallie Thompson (D), pending Ph.D. in plant scienceThompson lost by less than 4 points to Renee Hoagensen, a local businesswoman, despite being outspent by more than a 10-to-1 margin. The 4-term Republican incumbent, Vicky Hartzler, coasted to victory over John Webb, who ran to her right. Hartzler is heavily favored in November, as 70% of those who voted in the primary cast their ballots for Republicans.
Status is taken from The Cook Political Report

New Hampshire—11 September

DistrictThe science candidatesUpdate
1Mindi Messmer (D), hydrologist/environmental activistIn an 11-person field, Messmer finished third, with 9%. Manchester politico Chris Pappas, who had the backing of most of the state’s Democratic party establishment, won easily with 42%. It’s an open seat, and Pappas is a slight favorite against Republican Eddie Edwards, a former local police chief, to keep this evenly balanced district in the Democratic column.
Status is taken from The Cook Political Report