California State Sen. Steve Knight (R-Palmdale), a key supporter of commercial space, says he will run for Congress next year in the 25th District should the current office holder, Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (R-Santa Clarita), decides to retire, the Antelope Valley Press reported today.
McKeon, 75, has not announced his plans, but there is widespread speculation in political circles that he will elect to step down next year rather than seek another two-year term, the newspaper reported.
The state senator, whose father William J. “Pete” Knight flew the X-15 rocket plane, has been a key backer of commercial space measures in the California Legislature. He introduced a limited liability bill designed to protect commercial space providers from passenger lawsuits that was approved with revisions. He also has introduced several other commercial space bills now being considered by legislators.
Knight had publicly stated that he would not run for Congress only a month ago, the Antelope Valley Press reported. However, he said he had been encouraged to run by his family and local elected officials. Knight stressed that he would not challenge McKeon should his fellow Republican decide to seek re-election next year.
The 25th District includes the cities of Palmdale and Lancaster and the southern Antelope Valley. The region has a proud aviation and space heritage, hosting Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works as well as the facilities where the space shuttles were built. The district is home to many employees who work at nearby Edwards Air Force Base and the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center.
If elected next year, Knight would join Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) as another supporter of commercial space in the House of Representatives. McCarthy, who is the House Majority Whip, represents the adjacent 23rd District, which encompasses the northern part of the Antelope Valley. The district includes the Mojave Air and Space Port, NASA Dryden, and Edwards Air Force Base.
Both Knight and McCarthy have worked with Mojave Air and Space Port CEO and General Manager Stu Witt on measures to advance commercial space activities in both Sacramento and Washington. McCarthy and Witt recently testified at a hearing on commercial space held by the House Subcommittee on Space.