Campaign '08

Primary day in Florida

Residents of Florida’s Space Coast can take a break today from work to dry out and clean up from Tropical Storm Fay by going to the polls for primary elections for a variety of local and state offices, as well as Congress. And it’s the Congressional elections that will be of interest there this year, as one member of Congress retires and another faces a stiff challenge to reelection.

The latter case is relatively straightforward: Tom Feeney, the current member of Congress from the 24th district, will secure the Republican nomination for Congress today, and will likely face off in the general election against Democrat Suzanne Kosmas. Feeney’s space positions as well-known, although his space policy statement on his campaign web site, while at the top of the list of issues, needs a little updating to reflect the status of HR 6063, the NASA Authorization Act of 2008. Kosmas, meanwhile, devotes a single paragraph to space, like most other issues, on her site, with general support for NASA and KSC in particular.

The neighboring 15th district is more interesting, since current Rep. Dave Weldon is not running for reelection, creating contested primaries for both parties. Earlier this month the Orlando Sentinel gave a lukewarm endorsement to Bill Posey, who the paper calls the most qualified Republican candidate but “no longer appears, hands-down, the most qualified candidate” overall. Posey doesn’t appear to have a formal position on space policy on his web site (or if it is, it’s hidden away), but he did issue last week a press release praising presidential candidate John McCain after McCain talked with local leaders about space. The release also notes Posey’s long history working state space issues as a member of the state legislature.

The same Sentinel editorial that endorsed Posey gave a more enthusiastic endorsement for Paul Rancatore, who “shows a deft hand explaining how Congress can expand NASA’s budget while also trimming the fat that NASA and Congress too often add to space-based programs.” That deftness isn’t in full display on his web site, which only mentions that he has “three specific proposals” to close the Shuttle-Constellation gap and “provide a secondary method of space access once Orion is operational”. Rancatore is one of the only major candidates for Congress—maybe the only one—to explicitly endorse space-based solar power, calling it “an economic generator not seen since the Apollo program.”

Late last week, Rancatore picked up another endorsement: Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin. Aldrin said that endorsed Rancatore “because I believe he truly understands the direction our space program needs to go and has formulated a plan that will create jobs, revitalize our space infrastructure and keep America on the leading edge.” This is not the first foray into politics for Aldrin, of course: in 2006 he campaigned for Nick Lampson as the Texas Democrat sought to return to the House. In 2004, though, Aldrin spoke at a campaign rally for President Bush in Florida at, appropriately enough, Space Coast Stadium.

Rancatore is facing Steve Blythe in the Democratic primary. Blythe doesn’t have the endorsements of the Sentinel or a former astronaut, but does have a detailed space policy statement on his site. It’s something of a rambling statement, that could use some copyediting as well (it’s “Mars”, Dr. Blythe, not “mars”; and Chandra is an x-ray telescope, not a radio telescope.)

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