Close race. Holt, one of two House physicists, appears to hold on to his seat.

Scientists Return to Congress

David is a Deputy News Editor specializing in coverage of science policy, energy and the environment.

Voters appear to have returned both members of the "physics caucus" to Congress--but just barely. Freshman Representative Rush Holt (D-NJ), one of two Ph.D. physicists serving in the House of Representatives, clung today to a slender 56-vote lead in his reelection fight. In Michigan, Representative Vern Ehlers (R), a former physics professor, coasted to his fourth term.

After Holt, the former director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory in New Jersey, won a narrow upset victory in 1998 (Science, 13 November 1998, p. 1234), Ehlers joked that the two could form a bipartisan "physics caucus" in Congress. The two are among just a handful of lawmakers with advanced training in science or engineering, and both have taken an active interest in science policy and improving math and science education.

Holt, however, was a leading target for defeat by Republicans, who strongly backed his opponent, former congressman Dick Zimmer. After trailing for much of election night, Holt overtook Zimmer in late tallies. But that result could change, observers say, since both campaigns are reviewing the results with an eye toward a recount. "Rush always likes to say that, as a scientist, he likes to get the facts," says campaign spokesman Peter Yeager. "So that's what we are doing now, counting votes and trying to get the facts."

In Michigan, Ehlers overwhelmed opponent Timothy Steele, receiving 65% of the vote. The win was welcomed by science lobbyists in Washington. Says one: "We need every lawmaker we can get who understands where researchers are coming from."

Related sites

Rush Holt for Congress

Vern Ehlers for Congress

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