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Thursday, November 23rd, 2017Last Update: Sunday, November 5th, 2017 11:44:31 PM

Bridenstine Nominated to Head NASA

By: Constitution Staff

In September, Oklahoma First District Congressman Jim Bridenstine was nominated to head the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). “I am humbled by this opportunity, and I thank President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence for their confidence. Should I be confirmed by the United States Senate, I will work with all diligence to achieve the President’s vision for America’s leadership in space.”

After Donald Trump was elected President, Bridenstine’s name surfaced for the NASA job. He was elected to Congress in 2012 and serves on the House Armed Services Committee and the Science, Space, and Technology Committee. In 2016 he introduced the American Space Renaissance Act.

Bridenstine holds a triple major from Rice University and an M.B.A. from Cornell University. He served as a U.S. Navy pilot and was on active duty for nine years. He began his Naval aviation career piloting the E-2C Hawkeye off the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier, flying combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. He later transitioned to the F-18 Hornet and flew as an “aggressor” at the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center. After leaving active duty, he returned to Tulsa to be the Executive Director of the Tulsa Air and Space Museum & Planetarium. He served four years in the Navy Reserve achieving the rank of Lieutenant Commander and flew counter-drug missions in Central and South America. In 2015 he joined the Oklahoma Air National Guard.

When he first ran for Congress, Bridenstine pledged that if elected he would only serve three terms. Based on this promise, he would not be a candidate for reelection in 2018. With his pledge to not run again, and the prospect of the NASA job, five Republicans have already announced their intention to succeed Bridenstine in Congress.

If Bridenstine is quickly confirmed, or resigns before his nomination is secured, there would be a special election to fill the vacant seat. State law provides for a special election when a vacancy occurs in a year that a regular election for the position would not otherwise be held. In this case, if Bridenstine would leave office before the end of 2017, a special election would need to be called. Otherwise, his replacement will be selected in the regular 2018 election cycle.

Unlike special elections for lower level offices where a candidate only has to finish first to secure the nomination of their political party, Oklahoma law requires a runoff primary for congressional seats. So, if there are three or more candidates of the same party, they must receive one vote more than 50 percent of the votes cast in the primary election, otherwise a runoff primary election will be held between the top two vote-getters.

Elections in Oklahoma are set at least six weeks to two months apart to allow time for ballot preparation and overseas voting. Considering that there could be a primary election, a runoff primary, and then a general election (assuming there are candidates from more than one party), a special election would likely take three to four months to elect a replacement. The winner of the special election would have to run almost immediately for reelection to the seat in 2018. The filing period for the regular 2018 election is in April.

The five Republicans who have announced for the seat are state Sen. Nathan Dahm of Broken Arrow; former Tulsa County District Attorney Tim Harris; pastor Danny Stockstill who is the lead pastor at Brookside Baptist Church in Tulsa; businessman Kevin Hern the owner of KTAK Coorporation which owns and operates ten McDonald’s restaurants in the Tulsa area; and Andy Coleman who is the former field director of The Voice of the Martyrs (VOM), a Christian nonprofit organization.

While the district is a difficult one for Democrats to win, it has been more than 30 years since a Democrat has held the seat, party leaders are expected to at least field a candidate to make the GOP work to hold the seat. Rex Berry is the lone Democrat to express an interest in running. He previously made two losing races for Tulsa County Sheriff. And, Libertarians who regained status as a recognized political party in 2016, are expected to present a candidate to gain attention for their party.

Bridenstine’s confirmation for the NASA post is not a sure thing, as some have been critical of the appointment saying he has an insufficient scientific background. But, even if Bridenstine is not confirmed, it is expected that he will honor his pledge not to run for another term.

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