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Democratic rivals weigh in on stem cells


Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s two Democratic rivals for governor were among the first --- and loudest -- voices to weigh in on the Republican incumbent's announcement that he will propose spending $20 million on stem cell research next year. Representatives of both hopefuls accused Ehrlich, who remained largely silent on the issue last legislative session, of a poll-driven conversion.

"While apparently making the right move today by funding research, it does not mask the true nature of his actions," said Scott Arceneaux, campaign manager for Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan. "This is yet another shameless election-year conversion, following poll-after-poll showing overwhelming support for stem cell research, to the right side of an issue he should have been on years ago. He is continuing his extreme makeover from right-wing conservative to phony mainstream moderate.

Duncan aides also noted that the county executive had sent Ehrlich a letter on the subject hours before he announced his decision. Ehrlich aides have made a habit of mockingly placing such missives in a tray in the governor's press office labeled "Doug's inbox."

Jonathan Epstein, campaign manager of Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, was also quick to criticize.

"While we're encouraged that Bob Ehrlich has taken a first step after years of allowing Maryland to fall behind, its disappointing that it took falling poll numbers to get him to do the right thing," Epstein said. "That's not leadership."

Bills to authorize state funding of embryonic stem cell research were hotly debated last year. Legislation passed the House but died in the Senate due to a Republican-led filibuster threat.

Ehrlich's plan would leave it to a state-created technology development corporation to decide whether to fund embryonic stem cell research or direct grants to less controversial forms of the science.

By John Wagner  |  January 11, 2006; 9:14 AM ET
Categories:  General Assembly , Governor  
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