On Tuesday, voters go to the polls in Texas for party primaries. Among the more interesting races will be the Republican nomination for the state’s 36th congressional district, which is up for grabs after the district’s current representative, Steve Stockman, decided to run against incumbent Sen. John Cornyn in the Republican Senate primary. The 36th district includes, near its southwestern borders, NASA’s Johnson Space Center, so it’s one of the few districts where space policy can be a campaign issue.
However, while the race for the GOP nomination has attracted a dozen candidates, only about half have devoted much attention to space policy, based on the issues sections of their campaign websites, and those who have don’t go into much detail. A review of those who do discuss it:
John Amdur says he is “committed to exploration” on his website, including getting more people into science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. “The crown jewel of the U.S. Space Program, JSC has been left to atrophy by indecision and utter lack of leadership in Washington,” he writes. “President Obama needs to stop sidestepping the issue and find a meaningful vision that will support the Space Center that has supported every single American to go into space; when I am in Washington, I will be the loud voice needed for CD-36’s place at the center of Space Exploration and the STEM fields.”
Doug Centilli doesn’t mention space on his issues page, but his website does include an endorsement from Doug Morrell, who was NASA chief of staff when Mike Griffin was administrator. “People who believe in the importance of America’s space program, and the role that the Johnson Space Center plays in human flight, need Doug Centilli in Congress,” Morell states. “Doug has the experience and track record to effectively fight for a strong, visionary and well funded space program.”
John Manlove says we must ensure that “we have continued excellence for our space capabilities” on the issues section of his site. “As your next Congressman, I will work vigorously to support NASA, protect it from any reduction of funding, and to strengthen our leadership in space exploration to ensure our national security and foreign policy objectives are met.” Manlove also won the endorsement of the Houston Chronicle in January in part because he “seeks a new, long-term vision for NASA.”
Kim Morrell only tangentially mentions space when, as a bullet point on the topic of “Military Readiness,” states: “Regain our military superiority in the air, outer space and on the ground.”
Dave Norman is the one candidate with an entire issues page devoted to space, with a similar theme of regaining leadership in space. “Unfortunately, President Obama is content to watch our space program fade away, sacrificed on the altar of an ambitious social agenda,” he writes. “Dave will work to restore our space program and technological leadership in the world through both reinvigorated NASA manned space exploration and with a NASA partnership with commercial space enterprises.”
Robin Riley worked nearly 20 years as a JSC contractor, so, not surprisingly, he has views on “Protecting NASA.” “I strongly encourage the federal government and NASA to work with American citizens and American businesses to research and develop a new vehicle to continue human space flight and maintain American’s leadership in space exploration,” he writes, not explaining whether this “new vehicle” would be different from the Orion vehicle NASA is developing or commercial crew systems also under development.
The rest of the Republican candidates—Brian Babin, Jim Engstrand, Phil Fitzgerald, Pat Kasprzak, Chuck Meyer, and Ben Streusand—don’t discuss space on their campaign sites. (In 2012, Meyer, who also ran for and lost the GOP nomination for the district, proposed a special kind of savings bond called “Space Bonds” to fund human spaceflight.)
With a field this large, the race for the nomination will likely go to a runoff election in late May. The eventual winner of the nomination, though, is likely to win the general election in November. In 2012, Stockman won the district with 70 percent of the vote. While a dozen Republicans are seeking their party’s nomination, only one Democrat is running in the district: Michael Cole, who ran in 2012 as a Libertarian. He also does not discuss space policy among the issues on his site. (A reader does note, though, that Cole does have a blog post about NASA on his campaign website, although not as part of his issues page.)