Scientists Win First-Time Runs for Congress, Senate
Scientists Win First-Time Runs for Congress, Senate

Scientists Win First-Time Runs for Congress, Senate

The midterm elections flip several House seats in favor of Democratic candidates with STEM backgrounds.

Catherine Offord
Catherine Offord

Catherine is a senior editor at The Scientist.

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More than 10 candidates with backgrounds in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics have won their runs for office across the United States in yesterday’s midterm elections. Several of them have had long political careers, while others were running for the first time in elections that have seen a wave of political newcomers.

With almost all of the votes now counted for the 2018 US midterms, it’s clear that the Democratic Party has won control the House of Representatives, while the Republican Party has strengthened its hold on the Senate. 

Representatives succeeding in their runs for re-election include physicians Michael Burgess (R-TX) and Andy Harris (R-MD), as well as physicist Bill Foster (D-IL). 

But there were several surprise victories for STEM-trained Democratic candidates who have never run for Congress before. Elaine Luria and Chrissy Houlahan, both of whom have backgrounds in engineering, overturned Republican-held seats...

Meanwhile, Lauren Underwood, a nurse and former advisor to the Department of Health and Human Services, becomes the first woman to represent Illinois’s 14th district, after defeating four-term Republican Representative Randy Hultgren. Another health professional, pediatrician Kim Schrier, also flipped a Republican seat in Washington’s 8th district after running on a largely healthcare-focused platform. 

Other scientists making first-time appearances as representatives include Sean Casten, a renewable energy entrepreneur who won the seat of six-term Republican Peter Roskam in Illinois, and Joe Cunningham, a 36-year-old lawyer originally trained in ocean engineering, who defeated South Carolina Republican Katie Arrington.

See “Candidates with STEM Backgrounds Running in the Midterm Elections

Elizabeth Gore, senior vice president for political affairs at the environmental advocacy group the Environmental Defense Fund tells Nature that the Democrats’ House win is “no small feat. . . . It is going to change the dialogue in Washington, and will certainly change the dynamic around science and the environment.” 

In particular, Gore adds, the House advantage will help in “reestablishing scientific integrity and highlighting the failure of the Trump administration to use scientifically based information for policymaking.”

Over in the Senate, Democrat Jacky Rosen, a computer programmer and political newcomer, unseated Republican Dean Heller in Nevada, following a successful campaign that attacked Heller’s involvement in Republican efforts to repeal Medicare last year. 

“I’m humbled, honored, and deeply grateful to serve as Nevada’s next Senator!” she writes this morning on Twitter. “I got into politics to make a difference, and I will always carry your stories with me.”

See “Meet the Scientists Still in the Running for Congressional Seats

We’ve compiled the results for races involving scientists running for office this year. (Candidates who won their races are highlighted in green.)

Candidates running for federal offices:


STEM background




Hiral TipirneniPhysician, cancer researcherArizona, 8th congressional districtDebbie Lesko  (R)Lesko wins
TJ CoxEngineer, businessmanCalifornia, 21st congressional districtDavid Valadao (R)Valadao wins
Sean CastenRenewable energy entrepeneurIllinois, 6th congressional districtPeter Roskam (R)Casten wins
Bill FosterPhysicistIllinois, 11th congressional districtNick Stella (R)Foster wins
Nick StellaCardiologistIllinois, 11th congressional districtBill Foster (D)Foster wins
Lauren UnderwoodNursingIllinois, 14th congressional districtRandy Hultgren  (R)Underwood wins
Chris PetersPhysicianIowa, 2nd congressional districtDave Loebsack (D), Mark Strauss (L), Daniel Clark (I)Loesback wins
Andy HarrisPhysicianMaryland, 1st congressional districtJesse Colvin (D), Jenica Martin (L)Harris wins
Rob DavidsonER physicianMichigan, 2nd congressional districtBill Huizenga (R), Ronald Graeser (US Taxpayers)Huizenga wins
Ronald GraeserPhysicianMichigan, 2nd congressional districtRob Davidson (D), Bill Huizenga (R)Huizenga wins
Matt LongjohnPhysicianMichigan, 6th congressional districtFred Upton (R), Stephen J. Young (US Taxpayers)Upton wins
Randy WadkinsBiochemistMississippi, 1st congressional districtTrent Kelly (R), Tracella Lou O'Hara Hill (Reform)Kelly wins
Jacky RosenComputer programmer, software developerNevada, SenateDean Heller (R), Kamau Bakari (Independent American Party), Tim Hagan (L), Barry Michaels (I)Rosen wins
Jeff Van DrewDentistNew Jersey, 2nd congressional districtSeth Grossman (R), John Ordille (L), William Benfer (Together We Can), Steven Fenichel (Time for Truth), Anthony Parisi Sanchez (Cannot Be Bought)Van Drew wins
Chrissy HoulahanEngineerPennsylvania, 6th congressional districtGreg McCauley (R)Houlahan wins
Joe CunninghamOcean engineerSouth Carolina, 1st congressional districtKatie Arrington (R)Cunningham wins
Phil BredesenHealth care entrepeneurTennessee, SenateMarsha Blackburn (R), Trudy Austin (I), John Carico (I), Dean Hill (I), Kevin Lee McCants (I)Blackburn wins
Joseph KopserAerospace engineeringTexas, 21st congressional districtChip Roy (R), Lee Santos (L)Roy wins
Mark BolerSoftware developerTexas, 26th congressional districtMichael Burgess (R), Linsey Fagan (D)Burgess wins
Michael BurgessPhysicianTexas, 26th congressional districtLinsey Fagan (D), Mark Boler (L)Burgess wins
Elaine LuriaNuclear engineeringVirginia, 2nd congressional districtScott Taylor  (R)Luria wins
Kim SchrierPediatricianWashington, 8th congressional districtDino Rossi (R)Schrier wins
John BarrassoPhysicianWyoming, SenateGary Trauner (D), Joseph Porambo (L)Barrasso wins

Candidates running for state offices:


STEM background




Jenn GrayPharmaceutical chemistryAlabama House of Representatives, 45th districtDickie Drake (R)Drake wins
Liz SnyderProfessor of public healthAlaska House of Representatives, 27th districtLance Pruitt (R)Pruitt wins
Randy FriesePhysicianArizona House of Representatives, 9th districtPamela Powers Hannley (D), Ana Henderson (R)Friese wins
Chris HansenRenewable energy entrepreneur

Colorado House of Representatives, 6th district
Hansen wins
Shevrin JonesChemistry teacherFlorida House of Representatives, 101st district
Jones wins
Linda JackVeterinarianFlorida House of Representatives, 101st districtAmber Mariano  (R)Mariano wins
Jasmine ClarkMicrobiology lecturerGeorgia House of Representatives, 108th districtClay Cox  (R)Clark wins
Frank SzczepanskiBiotech entrepeneurIndiana House of Representatives, 4th districtEdmond Soliday  (R)
Don WesterhausenCardiologistIndiana House of Representatives, 5th districtDale DeVon  (R)DeVon wins
Edie HardcastlePlant biology professorIndiana State Senate, 49th districtJim Tomes  (R)Tomes wins
Katie McBrinePediatricianMassachusetts State Senate, Plymouth and Norfolk districtPatrick O’Connor (R), Stephen Gill (I)O’Connor wins
Julia PulverNurseMichigan State Senate, 15th districtJim Runestad (R)Runestad wins
Kelly MorrisonPhysicianMinnesota House of Representatives, district 33BCindy Pugh  (R)Morrison wins
Anne ClaflinClimate scientistMinnesota House of Representatives, district 54AKeith Franke (R)Claflin wins
Alice MannPhysicianMinnesota House of Representatives, district 56BRoz Peterson  (R)Mann wins
Maren Bell JonesVeterinarianMissouri House of Representatives, 44th districtCheri Toalson Reisch (R)Toalson Reisch wins
Sarah PetersEnvironmental engineerNevada State Assembly, 24th district
Peters wins
Jacqueline ChretienBioscientistNew Hampshire House of Representatives, Hillsborough 42Matt Wilhelm (D), Phillip Harris (R), Joseph Lachance (R)Chretien wins
Beth ListonPediatric surgeonOhio House of Representatives, 21st districtStu Harris  (R)Liston wins
Jennifer Rager-KayPhysicianPennsylvania House of Representatives, 85th districtFred Keller  (R)Keller wins
Gabbby SalinasTherapeutics researcherTennessee State Senate, 31st districtBrian Kelsey (R)Kelsey wins
Michelle BeckleyStudied biomedical sciencesTexas House of Representatives, 65th districtRon Simmons  (R)Beckley wins
Lucy RogersBiology major, conservation researchVermont House of Representatives, Lamoille-3 districtZachary Mayo  (R)Rogers wins

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