Schmidt contemplates run for Congress

eBay CISO Howard Schmidt is considering a run for Congress. But is a security background a vote-clincher?

Howard Schmidt, a career technologist, has been approached to run for Congress, representing Washington state's 8th District, because of his varied background in business, government and law enforcement, he said.

Schmidt, vice president and CISO at eBay and former CSO of Microsoft, was a self-trained cybercop for the Chandler (Arizona) Police Department, supervisory special agent for the U.S. Air Force, special advisor for cyberspace security to the White House and vice chair of the President's Critical Infrastructure Protection Board. He's also a founding member the Global CSO Council and co-chair of the awareness and education committee of the Cyber Security Task Force. In addition, he helped draft the Bush administration's National Strategy to Protect Cyberspace.

With complex issues such as spam, online security, identity theft, privacy and infrastructure protection being hot buttons in Congress right now, someone with Schmidt's background would become the go-to man to help legislators weed through the confusing technical jargon, say analysts.

"There's been a lot of IT legislation over the years to regulate e-commerce and security -- some good, some not so good," said Dorothy Denning, professor of defense analysis at the Naval Post Graduate School and author and lecturer on encryption and information security policy. "We need people in Congress who are knowledgeable about what the issues are when legislation comes up."

Jennifer Dunn, the Republican incumbent who's vacating the seat, won't endorse a candidate until the primaries are over in September. However, Pierce Scranton, Dunn's chief of staff, said someone like Schmidt would help carry on Dunn's agenda in homeland security.

"Howard's work on the Critical Infrastructure Protection Board meshes well with what Jennifer Dunn is doing as the vice chair of the House Select Committee on Homeland Security," he noted.

But technical background doesn't get people elected, said Washington State GOP Chairman Chris Vance.

"Tech issues are way down on the list of what our voters care about. The average software engineer living in a Seattle suburb making a big salary is not worried about anything, so he votes on what he sees in the news -- the economy, environment, war, schools, health care and abortion rights," he said.

At the time of this writing, Schmidt hadn't yet decided to run and was still determining his other platforms, which so far included reproductive rights, job development and environmental protection. But Schmidt did say that tech would be a strong issue for him because tech jobs are important to his local economy, and that tech, and his international background, can help homeland security.

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