WisBusiness: 4th CD candidates debate stem cell research

WisBusiness.com staff

MILWAUKEE – Candidates for the 4th Congressional District seat on Monday split along partisan lines when it came to the topic of expanding stem cell research.

Three Democrats and two Republicans, appearing at a noon forum sponsored in part by WisBusiness.com, took the positions of their respective presidential candidates in addressing the controversy. About 80 people attended the forum at the Milwaukee Hyatt. Other forum sponsors included: the Wisconsin Technology Council, MMAC and the Greater Milwaukee Association of Realtors.

Democrats supported expanding the research and lifting the Bush Administration ban, while Republicans favored using adult stem cells or other methods for the research.

Tim Carpenter, D-Milwaukee, a state senator, was perhaps the most passionate advocate of stem cell research expansion, recalling his mother’s death from Parkinson’s disease.

Carpenter called the federal restrictions a “Bush gag order” and said lifting the ban was “the right thing to do.”

Democrat Matt Flynn, a Milwaukee lawyer, urged the government to get out of scientists’ way. “I would like scientists to be free,” he said.

State Sen. Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee, agreed with her Democratic competitors, saying she fully supports “use of science to improve the human condition.”

But Republican Gerald Boyle said it was not a matter of science helping humans, but more of an ethical and moral problem with use of embryonic stem cells.Republican Corey Hoze also said he was against using embryonic cells for research.

The candidates also split along partisan lines when it came to location of a technology park at Pabst Farms in Oconomowoc. Carpenter urged that it be located in the industrial Menomonee Valley, where it would be closer to Marquette University and the airport. Flynn said having such an economic engine in the suburbs was “not particularly helpful” to the city but said it wasn’t a focus of his campaign. Moore said communities should not be stealing economic resources from each other.

But the two Republican candidates said economic development in the suburbs helped the city of Milwaukee, too.

On other topics, the candidates:

–Agreed that a better economy and improved education system would help reduce crime in the city. “You can’t leave a whole community behind and say life is good,” said Moore, trying to become the state’s first African-American member of Congress. “We need jobs, educational opportunity.” Boyle, a criminal defense attorney and Marine Corps major, said school choice and drug rehabilitation could help “break the cycle of poverty” and “give people a second chance.”

–Said bringing home more federal dollars to Wisconsin and Milwaukee would help the economy and maintained they were the fighters and cheerleaders who could get it done. To that end they mostly chose the Ways and Means Committee (retiring U.S. Rep. Jerry Kleczka’s perch) or Appropriatons (where U.S. Rep. David Obey holds his power) as preferred committee seats. But Flynn admitted that might be tough, given the lack of seniority a new member would have. “We have to be prepared to play beyond the committee,” said Flynn, who said the key issue for him was jobs. Boyle, on the other hand, said the top priority was security and said he’d like to be on the Armed Services Committee.

–Offered visions of a future Milwaukee economy with a revived base of manufacturing jobs plus a healthy mix of new tech-oriented jobs. “We have to focus on building a more knowledge-based economy,” said Hoze.

Carpenter, Flynn and Moore suggested the Republican administration was holding Milwaukee back. Carpenter said his vision was expanded stemc cell research in Milwaukee along with a resurgent manufacturing sector and tourism telling the world “We’re coming back.” Moore called for fair trade policies and “understanding the importance of our Great Lakes.” Flynn said the Dems have a chance of winning back Congress. “This administration specializes in exporting jobs,” he said.