November 9, 2018
Last week, we covered three close races in California, Florida, and Texas that had major implications for leadership in science-related committees. Though two of the races we discussed have not been officially called yet as of Friday afternoon, speculation for who will win the committee leadership positions has already begun.
Culberson loses to Fletcher in Texas
In a big upset for Republicans, Rep. John Culberson lost his reelection campaign to attorney Lizzie Fletcher in Texas’ 7th district by 4 points. Since 2014, Culberson has served as the chair of the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS), a subdivision of the influential Appropriations Committee. With Democrats taking the house back, current ranking member Rep. José Serrano (D-NY) is a likely candidate for chair of CJS. Republicans will have to decide on a new ranking member for the subcommittee, which based off seniority could be Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL) though he’s announced his interest in taking the Appropriations Committee chair instead.
How this will affect science is still unknown. Culberson has been one of the biggest advocates for NASA’s space exploration programs, and even maintained funding for climate-science related projects. He fiercely supported NASA’s mission to explore Jupiter’s icy moon Europa, and with his departure the project’s timeline could shift.
Rohrabacher behind Rouda in California
Though the race has not been called yet, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher is expected to lose to challenger Harley Rouda by a narrow margin in California’s 48th district. Rohrabacher has a keen interest in space exploration, especially private ventures. He was interested in chairing the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, but since Democrats won the House Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) will likely be chair.
Johnson has expressed interest in the position and would be the first person with a degree in a STEM field to hold the position since 1990. In a press release, Johnson laid out three goals for the House Science Committee; ensuring the US remains a global leader in innovation, addressing climate change, and restoring the credibility of the committee.
Florida Senate race heats up
Florida is at it again. With both the Senate and Governor’s race likely headed to a recount, Senator Bill Nelson’s fate has not been decided yet though he currently trails Scott by a small margin. Both Nelson and his challenger Governor Rick Scott’s campaigns have filed lawsuits, against the Florida Secretary of State and Broward County Supervisor of Elections respectively.
Democrats did not take back the Senate, so if Nelson wins there will be no changes to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation leadership where he is the ranking member. Nelson has been a strong advocate for NASA and supports restoring funding to the space program.