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Campaign Workshop Offers Practical Advice to Scientists Interested in Political Office
Scientists and engineers who are seeking political office—or are simply interested in the nuts and bolts of running a campaign—can learn more about the key strategies and challenges of entering political life at the first annual Campaign Education Workshop on 10 May in Washington, D.C.
Sponsored by Scientists & Engineers for America (SEA), AAAS, and several other research societies, the non-partisan workshop will focus on the practical considerations of running for office, as well as the specific ways that scientists can become more involved in political campaigns. The event is an outgrowth of a workshop organized last July by AAAS and SEA as part of the 2007 professional development program for AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellows.
The 2007 event "was very successful," said Cynthia Robinson, director of AAAS's S&T Policy Fellowships. "We had invited a number of our partner scientific societies to observe the event last year, and there was such enthusiasm that we thought we should be doing this for our members in general, not just Fellows."
Paul Bunje, a second-year Fellow who attended last year's workshop, said many of the 2007 attendees weren't necessarily interested in running for office themselves, "but everyone really wanted to be able to see behind the curtain of how someone gets elected." This year, he thinks "many scientists are looking to know exactly how they could set up a campaign and win a race."
In fact, the May workshop will offer more detail and specifics on how to run a campaign, including how to hire a staff, how to create a budget, how to craft media messages, and how campaigns differ from the school board to the congressional level, Robinson said.
Featured speakers include Dean Levitan, of the political consulting firm MSHC partners, Kevan Chapman, communications director for Michigan congressman Vern Ehlers, and Joe Trippi of Trippi Associates, a veteran of several U.S. presidential campaigns, most recently the Democratic primary run of John Edwards.
Bunje will also speak at the workshop about STEP-IN (Science and Technology Electoral Politics Interest Network), a new nonpartisan support group for scientists interested in political office. The group, started by Bunje and former American Physical Society Congressional Fellow Don Engel, has signed up 40 researchers from around the country since its launch two months ago.
Bunje, who says he hopes to seek office sometime in the future, says scientists interested in electoral politics "have a definite sense of civic duty, and many see a glaring need for scientific expertise in making decisions about complex public interests."
Fellows are increasingly expressing similar plans after their fellowship in Washington, says Robinson. "For a number of Fellows their experience is a catalyst to seriously consider running for office at some level,'" she said.
Some former Fellows are already taking the plunge. Michelle McMurry, an M.D. and Ph.D. who was a Fellow at the National Science Foundation, is running for the California District 12 House of Representatives vacant seat of the late Tom Lantos. Chris Rothfuss, a chemical engineer who served at the Department of State, recently announced his candidacy as a Democratic candidate for the Wyoming U.S. Senate seat held by Republican Mike Enzi.
The Campaign Education Workshop is hosted by the Georgetown University Program on Science in the Public Interest and sponsored by Scientists and Engineers for America; AAAS; the American Chemical Society; the American Institute of Physics; the American Physical Society; the American Sociological Association; the American Society of Civil Engineers; the Consortium of Social Science Association; and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.
8 April 2008