Welcome back to 2016 POTUS Candidates and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Today I’ll briefly look at Governor Chris Christie, Governor Scott Walker, Governor John Kasich, and former Governor Jim Gilmore.

Chris Christie

Quick biography of candidate

Christopher James Christie was born 6 September 1962 in Newark, New Jersey to Wilbur James Christie and Sondra A. Christie (née Graso). The family moved from Newark to Livingston, where Chris went to high school. He went to the University of Delaware (BA, political science), then Seton Hall University (JD), then started work at a law firm in Cranford, New Jersey where he was named a partner in 1993. He was elected to county legislature in 1994, lost a campaign for the state legislature in 1996, and lost re-election for county in 1998, returning to law and lobbying. He helped the 2000 George W. Bush presidential campaign as lawyer for New Jersey, and in late 2001 was appointed US Attorney for the District of New Jersey, serving in that position until December 2008. A month later he started a successful run for New Jersey governor, and he won his re-election bid in 2013. In November 2013 he was elected Chairman of the Republican Governors Association (fellow 2016 POTUS candidate Bobby Jindal was the preceding chairman), helping Republicans win some heavily contested gubernatorial elections in 2014. He declined to run for President in 2012, but in June 2015 he announced his campaign for the 2016 Republican primary.

Does this candidate have a STEM background?


Scott Walker

Quick biography of candidate

Scott Kevin Walker was born 2 November 1967 in Colorado Springs, Colorado to Llewellyn Scott Walker and Patricia Ann Walker (née Fitch), the second son in the family. The family moved to Iowa and then Delavan, Wisconsin when Scott was 2 and then 10, following his father’s Baptist minister work. Scott worked on, but did not finish, a bachelor’s degree at Marquette University; he left school to start working with the American Red Cross. In 1990 he ran for a Wisconsin legislative seat, losing in the general election, and ran again in 1993, winning that election. He served in the Wisconsin State Assembly until running for Milwaukee County Executive, in 2002, winning re-election to that position in 2004 and 2008. He unsuccessfully campaigned for Wisconsin Governor in 2006, but in 2010 he ran a successful campaign, handily winning the Republican primary and then winning the general election. He annoyed a lot of people in Wisconsin, and in 2012 he faced a recall election, which he won (by a larger margin) against the same Democrat he had defeated in the 2010 gubernatorial election. After winning his re-election bid for Governor in 2014, he is the only Governor in the US to have won three elections in 4 years.

Does this candidate have a STEM background?

Nope. He reportedly was triple-majoring when he left Marquette, but none of those three majors were in STEM.

John Kasich

Quick biography of candidate

John Richard Kasich was born 13 May 1952 in McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania to John and Anne (née Vukovich) Kasich. He grew up in that town and went to Ohio State University (BA: political science). While at Ohio State he wrote a letter to President Nixon and got to meet with him. John worked as a researcher for the Ohio Legislative Service Commission and as an administrative assistant to a state senator. In 1978 he successfully ran for an Ohio Senate seat. In 1982 he successfully ran for a seat in the US House and successfully defended his seat in the next 8 elections. While in the House he was a member of the House Armed Services Committee and the House Budget Committee; in 1996 he was considered by the Dole presidential campaign as a running mate. In 1999 he put together a Presidential campaign but dropped out in July, endorsing the eventual Republican primary winner George W. Bush. After leaving the US Congress he was on Fox News Channel a lot, he wrote a book, and he worked at Lehman Brothers. In May of 2009 he started his campaign for Governor of Ohio, winning a close race; his 2014 re-election was not a close election..

Does this candidate have a STEM background?


Jim Gilmore

Quick biography of candidate

James Stuart Gilmore III was born 6 October 1949 in Richmond, Virginia to James Stuart Gilmore, Jr. and Margaret Evelyn (née Kandle). He attended high school there, then went to the University of Virginia (BA: foreign policy), and then enlisted in the US Army, where he was trained in military intelligence and served until 1974 in West Germany as a US Army Counterintelligence Agent. After returning to the US he attended the University of Virginia’s law school, graduating with his JD in 1977. He practiced law in Virginia at a private law firm, eventually becoming a partner. He was a Commonwealth’s attorney (IOW a state prosecutor) starting in 1987, he was elected Attorney General in 1993, and he left that office to run for Governor in 1997. While Governor he was Chairman of an assessment panel nicknamed the Gilmore Commission to determine how the US would respond to a terrorist attack, he also served as a Chairman of the Republican National Committee. After his one term as Governor, Gilmore headed the Free Congress Foundation, attempted a presidential campaign (2008; dropped out in July 2007), a US Senate campaign (2008; lost general election), and now another presidential campaign.

.Does this candidate have a STEM background?


How old do they think the world is?

I could not find an answer for Mr. Christie.

I could not find an answer for Mr. Walker

Mr. Kasich does not seem to have given a direct answer. His 2010 book Every Other Monday includes a section about his religious beliefs and about what he thinks about Biblical stories that seem a bit difficult to believe. “Like a lot of people, I’m of two minds on some of the fantastic stories. Some are clearly metaphor and allegory; others stand as factual recounting of human history, taken from the historical record. I believe it’s important to repeat that here, I stand on the side of fact.” So it sounds like he accepts that the Bible is a mix of real stories and allegory. But he then follows that by saying that Noah’s “impossibly, unfathomably large” ark and a “tremendous” flood is a real story. So this might mean he also thinks a six-day creation thousands of years ago is a real story, but without any clear answer I don’t want to guess.

I could not find an answer for Mr. Gilmore.

Do they think humans naturally evolved from other apes?

Mr. Christie’s literal answer, in May 2011, was “That’s none of your business.” At the time he apparently thought that individual public schools should be able to teach creationism if they wanted to, in addition to their state-mandated curriculum. This led to various state officials making sure that it’s known that that’s not how education in New Jersey works. But Mr. Christie also made sure to state that he wasn’t “advocating for the teaching of creationism.”

Mr. Walker has refused to answer directly but then answered no indirectly. In February of 2015 he said he would have to “punt” on that question, because he claimed that politicians shouldn’t be involved in this question. He later stated that he believes “faith and science are compatible, and go hand in hand,” that “both science and my faith dictate my belief that we are created by God”, and that “God created the Earth.” I’m not sure how he thinks science supports his belief that humans were created by God; he hasn’t really explained that opinion

I could not find an answer for Mr. Kasich, but his record suggests no. In June of 2009 he thought that Ohio public school science classes should teach both science and not-science. In September of 2014 he thought that local districts of public school should be able to teach not-science if they chose to.

I could not find an answer for Mr. Gilmore. Back in May of 2007 at a Republican debate, when the moderator asked who did not “believe” in evolution, Mr. Gilmore did not raise his hand.

Do they think human activity is warming the planet?

Mr. Christie does, but has made a recent sharp move into contrarian territory. In May 2011 he gave a speech which included the statement that human emissions are “at least a part of the problem.” And in May of 2015 he still had the same answer; that global warming is real and that humans are contributing to it, even if he claimed that human contribution percentage was unknown. But then… In December of 2015 he thought that climate change policies aren’t a thing that the world needs American leadership on, because “there’s a lot more important things to worry about.” Similarly in the same month he also stated “It’s not a crisis … the climate’s been changing forever and it will always change.” As Governor of New Jersey he pulled New Jersey out of a regional carbon cap and trade program, so maybe his new rhetoric isn’t that surprising.


Mr. Walker has never given a direct answer but his record suggests no. He once told a child, when that child asked him about climate change, that we should leave the Earth a better place than when we found it. That’s a confusing answer in light of his political record and rhetoric. In July 2008 he was lauded for pledging to “oppose legislation relating to climate change that includes a net increase in state/local revenue.” In December 2009 he referred to climate scientists as “discredited”. His gubernatorial history does not include any? actions which would help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, climate/environmental research by Wisconsin government organizations have become more difficult, and he’s been the keynote speaker at a human-caused climate change denying organization’s anniversary dinner. He’s even for cutting public funding for recycling.

Mr. Kasich does, a little, but doesn’t want regulations to ruin anyone’s profits. In June 2009 he argued that a cap and trade bill that was, at the time, under discussion in the US Congress (and which was eventually defeated) could be the “death knell” of at least part of the US economy. In May of 2012 he was willing to say “there is a problem with climate change.” But he still thought that states like his own Ohio should be able to burn coal without apology. And last year he was still making policy decisions which put a very small amount of emphasis on controlling greenhouse gas emissions.

Mr. Gilmore used to, but might be walking away from that answer. In 2008 he said that “we do not know for sure how much is caused by man” but also “we must work toward reducing emissions without damaging our fragile economy.” In February of 2010 he did not sound convinced that climate science had reached any solid conclusions. In June of 2015 he still sounded unconvinced: “I would like for it to be shown that is it man-made. And if it is, then at that point, we have to address how we deal with it.” He might be unaware of the strong scientific evidence that warming is man-made.

Do they think that human lives begin at conception?

Mr. Christie has declined to state. He was directly asked this in November of 2011 and he wouldn’t state his opinion. Mr. Christie identified as pro-choice earlier in his political life (1993-1995 … or 1996, reports differ), but since then he has identified as pro-life. During March of 2015 he joined all(?) other GOP POTUS candidates in supporting a ban on legal abortions after 20 weeks of gestation. He apparently does believe that rape, incest, and maternal health are valid exceptions


Mr. Walker does. He has been advocating for abortion restrictions since at least his undergraduate years. During his 2010 gubernatorial campaign he was accused of wanting to criminalize abortion with no exceptions; his campaign accepted that accusation as a true summary of his position. He, like many Republican politicians, also supports the scientifically-probably-not-true claim that fetal human beings feel pain at 20 weeks of development. To that end, in July of 2015 he signed legislation into effect which criminalized abortions (except for maternal health exceptions) after 20 weeks.

Mr. Kasich probably does but when asked directly he has evaded. His political record has strongly pushed an agenda of putting more and more restrictions on access to legal abortion; if you want a really long but informative read on that, here’s one. Back in July of 2011 he criminalized abortions after 20 weeks with the only exception of maternal health. Legislation he signed in June of 2013 apparently changed Ohio law to define pregnancy as starting before any conception even occurred, which is … odd.

Mr. Gilmore seems to think that a human life is definitely present by around 8 weeks. In 1997 he was in favor of criminalizing abortions after 12 weeks of gestation, with only maternal health as an exception. By a decade later (warning: that link is a poor news source) he thought that abortion should be illegal after 8 weeks: “After that period of time I think there should be no further abortions — because I think the child has emerged — except to save the life of the mother and situations of extremes.”

Executive summary

Chris Christie: Mr. Christie has given pandering answers about the teaching of anti-evolutionary concepts in school, he thinks that global warming is something that humans affect but that we shouldn’t worry about, and he has refused to answer direct questions about when a human life begins. D, for distracting answers.


Scott Walker: Mr. Walker has given little reason in either his words or his actions to believe that he accepts any of the science of STEM. F, for an incredibly poor record on scientific issues.

John Kasich: Mr. Kasich’s long political career has given him the political ability to sound like he’s giving good answers when he’s failing to do so. Some of his rhetoric sounds good, but his policy choices do not support his rhetoric. D-, is not offering up solid science-based governing or legislating.

Jim Gilmore: Some missing data is making it difficult to give a grade. His known answers are D worthy, because they could be worse, but not by much.

Last up from the GOP:

Summary, Update on GOP POTUS Status

Previous entries:

Ted Cruz

Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina

Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, George Pataki, Lindsey Graham

Rick Perry, Jeb Bush, Donald Trump, Bobby Jindal

Images in post from globerove.com, Ethan Siegel’s blog at scienceblogs.com, Wikimedia user TimVickers’s modification of an illustration from Huxley’s 1863 book Evidence as to Man’s Place in Nature, a blog that seems to have stopped adding new content, and a page at biologypop.com