Some are running for Congress, others are getting training now.
Tracy Van Houten has an undoubtedly cool job. She’s a systems engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and she currently leads a team that’s conducting testing for the upcoming Mars 2020 rover mission. She joined JPL, located 15 miles outside of downtown Los Angeles, 13 years ago. Since then, she’s worked on several space missions, including the last Mars rover mission, Curiosity, and an Earth satellite that collects data on soil moisture.
Landing a job at JPL wasn’t an accident. Van Houten dreamed of working at the NASA center since she was in high school, and she looked for any way to get her foot in the door. She collected the business cards of people with even a slight connection to JPL, and she sent out hundreds of resumes. She hustled her way to her dream job. Now she’s willing to give it all up.
Van Houten is running to fill an empty seat in the 34th Congressional District of California, which includes several prominent neighborhoods in and around downtown Los Angeles. She says she’s been pondering a run for office for several years, volunteering on prior campaigns and attending political training seminars. When Xavier Becerra left his seat in Congress earlier this year to become attorney general of California, Van Houten saw a chance to accelerate her plan.
The field is crowded: Van Houten is one of 24 candidates in the race. The majority of the candidates in the race are Democrats, with one Republican, one independent, and two third-party candidates. Van Houten’s competition includes candidates who have worked for Barack Obama, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. Voters will cast their ballots in a special primary election on April 4. Two front-runners will be chosen for a general election in June, unless one candidate gets more than 50% of the vote, in which case that candidate wins. If Van Houten wins, she would become the first female engineer in Congress.
“It was very attractive that I could run in my area for Congress and fight back against the anti-science, anti-reason agenda that is going on in Washington right now,” she told Ars in a phone interview. “And it’s especially important to have people involved in the STEM discipline to have a seat at the table in Washington. Our representation there is very, very low.”Read more...