State Senate candidates battle over pro-life credentials

Wednesday, June 27, 2012
Rep. Wayne Wallingford speaks Tuesday, June 26, 2012 about receiving the endorsement of Missouri Right to Life PAC as a candidate for state senator of the 27th District at Common Pleas Courthouse in Cape Girardeau. (Fred Lynch)

A Republican primary race between two area state House colleagues seeking the same Missouri Senate seat became more contentious Tuesday, as a pro-life group used a news conference about a candidate endorsement to call his opponent's record on the subject into question.

Calling him a "true pro-life conservative," Missouri Right to Life on Tuesday threw its political heft behind Rep. Wayne Wallingford over opponent Rep. Ellen Brandom in the race for Missouri's 27th District Senate seat.

At news conferences in Cape Girardeau and Perryville, the pro-life political action committee exclusively endorsed Wallingford in the winner-takes-all Aug. 7 Republican primary. The organization pointed to Brandom's vote for the controversial Missouri Science Innovation and Reinvestment Act during last fall's special legislative session -- a bill that had some worried about state funds being used for stem-cell or cloning research.

"Wayne understands what is at stake," said Dave Plemmons, the PAC's chairman. "He's pro-life for more than just abortion. ... It's much easier now for candidates to just be pro-life on abortion because it gives them something good to put on a push card or in a commercial. Wayne knows there are threats to the sanctity of life that goes beyond political talking points."

Gov. Jay Nixon signed the MOSIRA bill in November in hopes of sparking science and technology startups, but the law was tossed by a Cole County judge in February on the grounds that the way lawmakers approved it violated the state constitution.

Wallingford's announcement came a day after Brandom received the endorsement of another pro-life group, Missourians United for Life. The Wallingford campaign said he's also won Missourians United for Life's endorsement.

On Tuesday, Brandom said one of the reasons she ran for her Missouri House seat six years ago was to fight for pro-life legislation. She also pointed out that many pro-life Republicans in the House and Senate voted for MOSIRA because the legislation had built-in protections to prevent cloning or stem-cell research. The bill passed the predominantly Republican House by a 94-48 margin.

Not to mention, she said, that the purse strings are controlled by the legislature and the overwhelmingly pro-life GOP members would never have allowed funding for stem-cell or cloning research. Specifically, the legislation would have set aside a percentage of state revenue growth from a group of science and innovation companies and used it to finance emerging companies in those sectors.

"Wayne knows I'm pro-life or he would not have endorsed me for Senate last June," Brandom said, referring to Wallingford's endorsement before he opted into the race. "I'm actually disappointed that Wayne is going negative on this issue. He knows I'm pro-life. There isn't any question about it."

Brandom also questioned the ratings system of Missouri Right to Life, saying that one year the group gave her and former representative Mary Kasten a "mixed" rating for voting for funding the Delta Research Center.

"No one in Cape Girardeau thinks Mary Kasten is anything but pro-life," Brandom said.

Still, Wallingford seems to be making the pro-life debate a centerpiece of his campaign. At several campaign appearances and interviews, Wallingford has said he is the only "100 percent" pro-life candidate.

During the Cape Girardeau news conference at the Common Pleas Courthouse, attended by about 30 supporters, Wallingford said he spent 25 years in the U.S. Air Force defending life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

"I wasn't about to go to Jeff City and drop life and just defend liberty and happiness," Wallingford said.

" ... I will fall on my sword to make sure no innocent life is ever sacrificed for any reason, let alone economic development. We don't do economic development on the backs of unborn children."

Plemmons said Wallingford understands the goals of the "anti-life lobby" in Jefferson City.

"He will not accept the false premise that economic development depends on protecting human cloning," Plemmons said. "He will not accept the false promise that tells us Missouri researchers, universities and biotech businesses must destroy human embryos to produce therapies and cures."

The organization does support what it called "ethical" forms of stem-cell research, including using adult stem cells and umbilical cord stem cells.

Wallingford and Brandom are scheduled to attend a candidate forum sponsored by the Cape Girardeau County Tea Party on July 17.

smoyers@semissourian.com

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Pertinent address:

44 N. Lorimier St., Cape Girardeau, MO

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