For many first-time congressional candidates with science and technology backgrounds, fundraising can be a major obstacle. Not to Brian Forde, who was once a senior technology adviser to former-President Barack Obama. Forde managed to outpace his Democrat rivals by raising some $1.5 million for his southern California House race, including more than $300,000 in contributions via cryptocurrencies.
But on 5 June Forde received only 6% of the vote, leaving him a distant fourth in the open, top-two primary to represent California’s 45th congressional district in Orange County. Democrat Katie Porter, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine (UCI), edged out fellow UCI law professor Dave Min for the right to challenge incumbent Republican Mimi Walters in the November general election.
The 38-year-old Democrat stands by his message that Congress needs more technologists to do its job. Exhibit A, he says, are all the legislators who struggled to keep up with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg when he testified this spring. But the knowledge gained from a tech career that gave him the chance to brief Obama on the emerging world of cryptocurrencies—and then to create a digital currency initiative within the Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge—wasn’t nearly enough to win a seat in Congress. Political smarts are even more important, he acknowledges.
Forde spoke with ScienceInsider both before and after his defeat, offering some advice to scientists weighing their own bids for elective office and reflecting on his own campaign.