National group of scientists endorses Kier in race for Montana’s seat in Congress

Congressional candidate Grant Kier. (Missoula Current)

Saying scientific facts should play a more prominent role in political decision making, congressional candidate Grant Kier on Monday welcomed the endorsement of the nation’s largest STEM organization and its 400,000 professional members.

Kier, a Democratic candidate for Montana’s lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, won the endorsement of 314 Action, saying science should reach beyond partisan politics and be used to improve the lives of Montanans by guiding sound decisions.

“I hear from people right now that they’re seeing our growing seasons change, our water availability change, our drought and wildfire behavior change, and they want us to deal with that,” Kier said. “Fundamentally, it points us toward using science to collect the data and make sound decisions on policy.”

The rift between science and myth in Congress has grown in recent years, leading many scientists to suggest that evidence has been trumped by opinion and ideology. From cell biology to climate change, Kier said facts matter and science should lead the way.

“For some, there’s a misconception that science threatens religious beliefs, which I don’t believe at all,” said Kier. “Some feel like science threatens their economic opportunity, and I completely dismiss that.”

Feeling under siege by politics in Washington, D.C., thousands of scientists marched on the nation’s capital in April to challenge the policies of President Donald Trump and urge wider public support for science as an industry.

From the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to the National Institute of Health, many scientific institutions feel under attack, though Kier said it’s the findings of science that can lead to greater health and prosperity.

“I really believe that scientific leadership and policy making share a key purpose, and that’s to help people succeed,” Kier said. “I can’t understand why the D.C. administration and our current congressman are attacking science and fact-based decision making. This threatens to put our country back for generations and Montana back for generations.”

As the nation’s largest and only resource created for scientists and STEM professionals, 314 Action is still relatively new. Founded last year, it claims more than 400,000 members who believe the U.S. is falling behind the world as Congress denies scientific fact.

Earlier this year, Trump proposed a budget calling for a major cut in spending on scientific research, medical research, disease prevention and other programs. He also called climate change a hoax and has sought to trim $776 million from the National Science Foundation.

That has prompted 314 Action to seek out candidates who believe in making policy based on facts over ideology.

“We’re supporting Grant because we know he will be an ardent proponent of evidence-based policy in Congress while championing the pro-environmental values of his constituents,” said the organization’s founder and president, Shaughnessy Naughton.

Naughton, a former breast-cancer researcher and chemist, said her organization’s pro-science advocates will serve as a strong advocate of Kier’s campaign. It’s fundraising arm could also serve as a boost to the candidates it chooses to endorse.

“Given the current administration’s dangerous actions to deregulate industries that directly harm the environment and to support a tax bill that will cripple our country’s renewable energy industry, Grant’s track record and experience are desperately needed in Washington,” Shaughnessy told the Missoula Current.

Kier announced his candidacy in September. The former well-site geologist and past director of the Five Valleys Land Trust said Montanans use science every day, whether it’s a farmer using soil science and drought monitoring to improve crop yields, or health care providers working to address the state’s suicide rate through research on mental health.

The endorsement permits Kier to access national leaders on a range of issues.

“I’ve been able to pick up the phone and talk to nuclear physicists about the history and evolution of nuclear energy or nuclear weapons in North Korea, or talk to medical researchers who can tell me exactly what the cuts to NIH are going to look like in terms of our inability to come up with new treatments and medications for cancer,” he said.

“They’re endorsing us because we use science to make sound decisions – evidence-based decisions instead of using thoughtless partisan rhetoric to find out where our policy decisions should lie.”