Geologist Jess Phoenix, a Democrat, is considering challenging Rep. Steve Knight (R-Lancaster) in the 2018 midterm elections as part of a larger effort to get scientists elected to Congress.
Phoenix, a volcanologist who runs an educational science nonprofit called Blueprint Earth that researches the Mojave Desert, said she is "90-plus percent sure" she will run for the 25th Congressional District and plans to launch her campaign in early April.
Phoenix, 35, is running with assistance from 314 Action, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization formed to recruit candidates with science backgrounds and help them launch campaigns for public office.
The group is named after the first three digits of the mathematical constant pi and was set to have a candidate training event in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday — Pi Day — but canceled the event when a snowstorm came through town. BuzzFeed highlighted Phoenix's candidacy in a story about the group Tuesday.
The organization is targeting three Republican members of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology: Knight, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa) and Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas). Its website links to a series of House votes by Knight that went against the League of Conservation voters.
Shaughnessy Naughton, a chemist and former congressional candidate who founded the group, said over 3,000 prospective candidates have contacted the group about running for seats on local school boards, state houses and in Washington.
Phoenix said she has never run for office. She used to live in the district in Simi Valley but moved to Burbank to be close to an equestrian center there. She intends to move to Acton, which is in the district, with her husband and their horses.
Though new to politics, Phoenix said she has an "ability to connect and compromise" with people thanks to science lectures she has given and her work with students through her nonprofit. She used to go by Jess Peláez but is in the process of changing her last name.
Phoenix, who was featured on the Discovery channel program "Trailblazers" last year, said she likes taking risks.
"I think if you can walk up to an actively erupting volcano, you can do just about anything," she said.
National Democrats have targeted Knight's seat as one they want to flip in 2018.