Congressman Rush Holt, one of the two current Ph.D. physicists in the United States Congress, is retiring after his term expires in January 2015. Much like last year, when an open Senate seat in New Jersey attracted several candidates (including Holt), there are several jockeying to replace the Congressman, and the primary election is in one month. Four Democratic candidates are running to face the lone Republican candidate in November.
One of the candidates shares a background with Holt. Andrew Zwicker, like Holt before him, is a scientist at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory. He heads the Lab’s Science Education Department, and has been recognized by the American Association of Physics Teachers for his work in science education. He also received an honorable mention (one of seven) in the first Alan Alda Flame Challenge. You can watch him (and a colleague) explain a flame to an 11 year old here:
Zwicker’s competition are all elected representatives in the New Jersey legislature, which for a primary campaign is perhaps more of an advantage than a disadvantage, even in a year of discontent with elected officials. The sole Republican candidate is Dr. Alieta Eck, who lost the Republican nomination last year for the Senate seat Holt campaigned for. Eck is a physician and former President of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons.
I’m in no position to effectively assess Zwicker’s chances. He represents a clear difference from his three Democratic opponents, but his lack of political (or campaign) experience, and dearth of fundraising, likely makes it harder for him to take advantage of any splitting of votes between the three better-connected candidates.