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Racing for Senate in a Stem Cell State: Murphy and McMahon

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If you live in Hollywood, you probably know where movies come from. Similarly, in a bio-med state like Connecticut, most folks know at least a little something about stem cell research.

Democrat Chris Murphy and Republican Linda McMahon are rivals for the U.S. Senate. One of them is fully knowledgeable and supports his state's advancements in stem cell research; the other -- well, not so much.

In 2005, Representative Chris Murphy authored and passed the Connecticut Stem Cell Investment Act, a $100 million dollar program which made the Constitution State one of the stem cell centers of the world. Already, the investment is paying dividends, allowing the tiny state to leap past many nations in the vital life sciences industry. Today, biomedicine is a booming multi-billion dollar industry for the state; and people come from around the world to learn stem cell research here.

"... We have over 100 labs. We have almost 200 researchers between Yale, the University of Connecticut and Wesleyan, doing embryonic and related stem cell research -- it's an amazing, amazing thing that's happened."

-- "State showcases local expertise at stem cell symposium", Connecticut Mirror, March 23, 2011

How does Murphy's program work?

"Public Act 05-149, 'An Act Permitting Stem Cell Research and Banning the Cloning of Human Beings' (was) approved by the General Assembly and signed by Governor M. Jody Rell on June 15, 2005. The Act appropriated the sum of $20 million for the purpose of grants-in-aid for conducting embryonic or human adult stem cell research. In addition, for each ... fiscal year (until) June 30, 2015... an additional ten million dollars (shall) be disbursed from the State's tobacco settlement fund to the stem cell research fund... "

-- "About Connecticut's Stem Cell Research Program", State of Connecticut, Department of Public Health, 7/22/2011

But isn't embryonic stem cell research... controversial?

Not according to the American voter.

Embryonic stem cell research is supported by: Independents (73 percent), Republicans (58 percent), Democrats (82 percent), Catholics (69 percent), Protestants (74 percent), Born-Again Christians (58 percent), other Christian groups and Religions (66 percent) -- overall, 72 percent of the American voting public support embryonic stem cell research.
Source: Harris Poll, October 7, 2010

72 percent approval? How many subjects can be found on which three-quarters of the American voting public agree? That level of support is enjoyed primarily by motherhood and apple pie!

Does Linda McMahon support embryonic stem cell research? Judging from her campaign statements, the answer appears to be yes, no, and maybe.

1. McMahon Supported Federal Funding For Embryonic Stem Cell Research. "As a senator... Republican Linda McMahon, would support federal funding of embryonic stem cell research... Ed Patru, communications director for McMahon, said (she) supports federal funding for stem cell research' for the hope it represents for potential cures for a number of diseases." [New Haven Register, 8/27/10]

2. McMahon Opposed Use Of Embryonic Stem Cells, Believed In Use Of Umbilical Cords*... In April 2012, McMahon said, "I think that we can have good discoveries for stem cell research. I believe more that we should use the umbilical cords* and the research that we can do from there that aren't embryonic stem cells." [News Times, 4/1/12]

3. McMahon "Supports Stem Cell Research," but, "Couldn't Say Whether She Would Impose Any Conditions." "On stem cell research, McMahon's campaign didn't offer any reaction until asked. Even then, her spokesman, Ed Patru, said she supports stem cell research, but he couldn't say whether she would impose any conditions." [Connecticut Mirror, 10/14/10]

"Supported", "opposed", "couldn't say" -- is this major confusion -- or serial flip-floppery?

And where is the Democrat, Chris Murphy, in all of this?

He has not wavered.

Representative Murphy took a hand in the debate about President George W. Bush's restrictive stem cell policy. (Remember both House and Senate twice passed the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act, which President Bush then twice vetoed.)

Murphy said:

"One hundred million Americans are affected by a debilitating or life-threatening disease. Somewhere in this vast universe, a cure for their disease exists. I know it. We all know it. Let's stop putting up man-made barriers to finding that cure, to curing our loved ones...

"(In Connecticut) we made a commitment of $10 million a year for over 10 years, and over a very short period of time, Connecticut has become one of the centers of excellence for stem cell research and embryonic stem cell research in the country.

"...I came to Washington to work with people from across the country and across the political spectrum... We passed the stem cell bill (HR 8: the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act, Castle/DeGette) for the millions of Americans who could benefit from... this research...

"Stem cell research -- the investment in potential cures and treatments to our world's cruelest diseases -- must be a national priority."

As a fingerprint reveals identity, so a political stance may signal the candidate's character.

For the post of United States Senator, one of the most powerful and responsible positions on Earth, what kind of leader do we want?

A Linda McMahon, who appears to change her positions according to the audience?

Or a Chris Murphy, who says what he means, and then stands behind his convictions?

Remember in November.

*"Umbilical cords"? Presumably Ms. McMahon means cord blood, which for a time was offered as an alternative for embryonic, and as such was popular among the religious right. Cord blood may indeed have some usefulness, but few scientists are eager to put all their hopes into that one narrow area. As Dr. Larry Goldstein puts it: "Stem cell researchers find cord blood interesting, but not generally as a substitute for human embryonic stem cells." -- "Stem Cells for Dummies", Lawrence Goldstein, Meg Schneider, Wiley Publishers, New York, 2010

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