Scientists group backs Aruna Miller in 6th District

A group working to elect scientists and engineers is weighing in to Maryland’s 6th Congressional District Democratic primary, backing state lawmaker and transportation engineer Aruna Miller.

The Washington-based nonprofit, 314 Action, was founded last year on the premise that scientists and engineers take a more rational approach to problem solving. The group’s name is a reference to the first three numbers in pi.

Miller, a state delegate who retired recently after 25 years as a traffic engineer for Montgomery County, is one of five Democrats raising money to succeed Rep. John Delaney, who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination. The district, based in Montgomery County, is expected to be the state’s most competitive federal contest in next year’s midterm election.

With at least two wealthy self-funded candidates, it also has the potential to be among the nation’s most expensive races.

“There aren't many people with scientific or technical backgrounds in elected office,” said Shaughnessy Naughton, the group’s president and a chemist who ran Democratic campaigns for Congress in Pennsylvania in 2014 and 2016. “I think we would benefit from not only the diversity of thought that that brings, but also the approach to problem solving that scientists and engineers have.”

Only a handful of congressional lawmakers have scientific backgrounds. Only one has a doctoral degree in a science, physicist Bill Foster, an Illinois Democrat. Maryland’s 6th District was represented for years by Republican Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, who has a deep background in the sciences and a Ph.D. in physiology.

Delaney unseated Bartlett in 2012 after the district was redrawn by Democrats in Annapolis.

Miller, who has represented portions of Montgomery County in the House of Delegates since 2011, studied civil engineering at Missouri University of Science and Technology, previously known as University of Missouri-Rolla. She worked in Los Angeles County before joining Montgomery County’s Department of Public Works and Transportation.

It’s not clear how much influence 314 Action will have in the district, particularly given the amount of money likely to be spent on advertising. In his first quarter, Democratic candidate David Trone — the co-owner of a national liquor retailer — spent more than $735,000.

The scientist group had just over $11,000 in the bank at the end of June, according to Federal Election Commission filings.

Naughton said the group has as many as 20,000 members in Maryland, a potentially large pool of volunteers.

“This is a real opportunity to get someone with a technical background” elected, she said.

The group has endorsed Democrats and one independent.

In addition to Miller and Trone, other Democrats running for the seat include pediatrician Nadia Hashimi, state Sen. Roger Manno and James Andrew Duck, who was the Democratic nominee for the district in 2010.

Republicans Amie Hoeber, the GOP nominee last year, former state Del. Matt Mossburg, Potomac resident Lisa Lloyd and Germantown resident Brad Rohrs have either filed paperwork with the FEC or the Maryland Board of Elections.

john.fritze@baltsun.com

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