There’s a hot congressional race going on right now deep in the heart of Texas in District 17, which stretches from just north of Houston to just south of Fort Worth and includes my alma mater, Texas A&M University. The contest pits incumbent Democrat and local guy Chet Edwards against Republican Van Taylor, who was apparently flown in by the GOP for this race. Edwards had a tough but successful race in 2004, when he was the only Texas Democrat targeted by Republican redistricting to retain his seat. So far things are looking good for Edwards this year, but, as with in the rest of the nation, the worst thing that Democrats can do is to get too comfortable too early. Since I was at A&M in 2004, I did my part on the campaign, but, unfortunately I haven’t really been able to do much from Oxford this year. However, being the good active citizen that I am, I recently submitted a letter to the editor of some local papers, and I thought I would reproduce it here, especially since Chet Edwards has been such a strong supporter of the sciences:
Over the past few years, science in the U.S. has fallen under hard times. Caught in the political crossfire, American science has suffered a string of significant setbacks at the hands of misguided public policy, much to the chagrin of the scientists working so hard for the public’s benefit.
There is still hope, though, and nowhere is this more evident than in Central Texas, where voters next week can make a difference nationally by reelecting Chet Edwards to the U.S. Congress. First elected to Congress in 1990, Chet Edwards has been a strong supporter of science in Central Texas for many years.
It was just two years ago, though, as I worked to complete my undergraduate degree in biochemistry at Texas A&M University, that I had the opportunity of joining hundreds of thousands of others in voting Congressman Edwards into the newly-formed Congressional District 17. Since then, Congressman Edwards has secured over $100 million in funding for Texas A&M–funding that has helped support a variety of important research efforts in health, medicine, nutrition, homeland security, biodefense, communications, agriculture, and energy. This money, invested in basic and applied research projects today, will yield great returns in the future, potentially impacting the lives of millions.
Most significantly, Chet Edwards has twice voted in favor of easing our nation’s unreasonable and counterproductive restrictions on embryonic stem cell research. The current rules–which prohibit all but a token amount of federal funding for this incredibly exciting and important area of research–hold back the progress of U.S. scientists and delay the discovery and development of the many potential medical applications of these stem cells.
Two years later, I now find myself overseas, pursuing my own Ph.D. research at the University of Oxford. When I look back across the geographic and cultural divides, my heart sinks at the prospect of so much unrealized scientific potential. When I think of my home state, though, I feel a great deal of pride and hope, knowing that we all–scientists and nonscientists alike–have such a great ally in Washington, one whom the voters will hopefully choose to keep around for many years to come.
Texas A&M University, Class of 2005