While Ron Paul is continuing his presidential campaign—a decision many may consider quixotic given John McCain’s virtual lock on the Republican nomination at this point—he does have a separate election looming: the Republican nomination for the 14th Congressional District in Texas, a seat Paul has held for over a decade. Paul is facing a strong challenger in the form of Chris Peden, and with no Democrat on the ballot, the March 4 primary could effectively be the general election for that seat.
Peden and some of his supporters are trying to use NASA as an issue to distinguish the two. Peden’s campaign web site notes his support for the agency:
As a Friendswood city councilman, Chris is a strong supporter of NASA and the space program. With the Johnson Space center less than 2 miles from CD [Congressional District] 14, many NASA workers and contractors live in CD 14. Recently retired astronaut Eileen Collins is a resident of CD 14, as are many of her colleagues in the elite astronaut corp [sic].
Chris regularly volunteers to travel to Washington, D.C as a member of Citizens for Space Exploration whose mission is to promote awareness of the benefits of human space exploration and support for NASA and the Vision for Space Exploration. Additionally, the cutting edge work in nanotechnology and bioengineering being done in CD 14 at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston depends on NASA innovations so a prosperous NASA leads to a prosperous CD 14.
Other have picked up on that argument. W. James Antle III in The American Spectator on Friday:
Yet Paul may be vulnerable for a different reason: The district isn’t that far from NASA’s headquarters and many of the space program’s employees are among his constituents. Paul has opposed firing taxpayer dollars into space on constitutional grounds. Peden promises to vote for “fully funding NASA’s budget and the Vision for Space Exploration.” A third candidate in the primary race, Andy Mann, is a NASA contractor.
Peden had this to say about Paul’s objections to funding NASA (among many other government programs) in an interview last week with Pajamas Media:
The second thing is that he constantly talks about things being unconstitutional that I don’t believe are unconstitutional. And, you know, he harps on NASA being unconstitutional, which Thomas Jefferson, one of the framers of the Constitution, funded Lewis and Clark’s expedition of the West. If – and I believe, you know, if in his day the moon had been within his reach, he would have funded that exploration as well. If you want to have a debate about whether NASA is a good expenditure for the federal government to make, that’s an intellectual debate that should happen in committee and should happen on the floor of Congress. But to say I’m voting against it because it’s unconstitutional is just felonious at best. And those are the types of things I reject.
Peden also recently won the endorsement of the Galveston Daily News in part because the paper believed that Peden would be better able to bring federal money of various flavors, including for NASA, into the district:
In the next two years, leaders in Galveston County will join those from other counties in District 14 in asking for a lot of federal funding. They’ll ask for help on projects such as research at the Galveston National Laboratory and on NASA’s mission to Mars.
Grassroots leaders should have an effective ally in their congressional representative. Peden is the better choice.
Will all this translate into more votes for Peden on March 4th? One thing to keep in mind in all this is that, should Peden win, he would be next year a freshman congressman associated most likely with the minority party (unless a massive shift in the 2008 elections returns the House to Republican control)—hardly a position of influence. Those thinking that Peden would be able to turn on the spigot for increased NASA funding should remember last year when Rep. Nick Lampson, a Democrat in the neighboring, high-profile 22nd District (home to JSC, as well as Tom DeLay’s former district) sought to win House support for the “Mikulski miracle”: an extra $1 billion for NASA in FY08 that had been approved by the Senate with bipartisan support. That bid ultimately failed, despite Lampson being in the majority and despite the benefit that increase could have provided Lampson in his reelection bid.