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Helping Scientists Run For Office

Shaughnessy Naughton of 314 Action helps scientists run for political office.
Courtesy 314 Action
Shaughnessy Naughton of 314 Action helps scientists run for political office.

When it comes to midterm elections most of the conversation so far has been focused on party politics and whether the president's involvement would help or hurt certain candidates.

But there is something unusual about this round of elections -- an unprecedented number of candidates who are scientists. There have been 60 at the federal level this year.  

“We endorsed about 22 federal campaigns and we saw a couple hundred for state and local races,” said Shaughnessy Naughton, founder and president of 314 Action, a nonprofit political action committee that has helped some 1,400 scientists run for political office.

“We've put out our first round of endorsements of about 50 state legislative candidates and we will be continuing to roll out endorsements going into the fall,” Naughton said.

314 Action takes the approach that anyone with a science, technology, engineering or math background is eligible for its support and endorsement. The group tends to endorse candidates who have gotten local endorsements and who are putting in the hard work of campaigning.

“It is the approach to problem solving the analytical thinking and the collaborative focus that people from these backgrounds bring with them,” Naughton said.

Amongst the “science-centric” candidates who have already had their elections this year, eight won and nine lost, Naughton said. But that doesn’t discourage her.

“Part of what we're hoping to accomplish with seeing more people from the scientific backgrounds running for office is to change the conversation,” Naughton said, adding that some politicians say scientifically false things and are under no pressure to correct themselves.

“Perhaps they will think twice about doing that,” Naughton said.

Elsa Partan is a producer for Living Lab Radio. She first came to the station in 2002 as an intern and fell in love with radio. She is a graduate of Bryn Mawr College and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. From 2006 to 2009, she covered the state of Wyoming for the NPR member station Wyoming Public Media in Laramie. She was a newspaper reporter at The Mashpee Enterprise from 2010 to 2013. She lives in Falmouth with her husband and two daughters.