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Originally published September 20, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified September 22, 2008 at 11:25 AM

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Gregoire stem-cell ad doesn't tell whole story

Gov. Christine Gregoire has a new television ad featuring a mother who cries as she talks about her sick child and the fact that Dino Rossi, the Republican candidate for governor, doesn't support stem-cell research that might save her son. It's a gripping commercial, but not quite true.

Seattle Times Olympia bureau

OLYMPIA — Gov. Christine Gregoire has a new television ad featuring a mother who cries as she talks about her sick child and the fact that Dino Rossi, the Republican candidate for governor, doesn't support stem-cell research that might save her son.

It's a gripping commercial, but not quite true.

In the ad, the woman says her son was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes.

"I know a diabetic child has a shorter life span than other kids, but stem-cell research gives us hope. So I get upset when a politician like Dino Rossi says he's against stem-cell research," she says, starting to cry. "Who is he to put his personal beliefs ahead of my child's health?"

The ad makes it sound like Rossi opposes all stem-cell research. His campaign said that's not true, noting that Rossi does support research using adult stem cells. But he opposes research using embryonic stem cells, which are collected from embryos that are destroyed in the process.

"Adult-stem-cell research is where all the advances have come from," Rossi has said. "I've been supportive of adult-stem-cell research but not embryonic. There is a distinction between the two because one has promise, and one doesn't."

Embryonic stem cells are prized because they are remarkably versatile and, many scientists say, may one day be used to grow muscles, nerves and even whole organs.

Scientist have made some progress with other types of human cells. Last November, teams of scientists announced that they had reprogrammed human skin cells so they behave like embryonic stem cells. But scientists also said the research faces serious hurdles before it could be used to devise new treatments.

A second Gregoire ad also running on television accurately portrays Rossi's position.

That ad features a man, suffering from Parkinson's disease, who says he can't understand "politicians like Dino Rossi, who's against embryonic stem-cell research."

Jill Strait, a spokeswoman for Rossi, contends that Gregoire "has done nothing to advance stem-cell research over the last four years and there's no reason to believe she'll do anything in the next four."

She said the Life Sciences Discovery Fund, created by Gregoire to fund health research in the state, has not awarded any grants dealing with stem-cell research.

The Gregoire campaign issued a statement saying that in two years the Discovery Fund has made 17 grants to Washington-based scientists, totaling $31.5 million.

"While no grants have gone to stem-cell researchers, there have been applications from stem-cell researchers and we expect more," the campaign said. "This is a 10-year, $350 million investment."

The Gregoire campaign also criticized an ad that ran on television recently showing Rossi talking about rising prices and a projected state budget deficit. In the commercial Rossi said, "I'm the only candidate who won't raise your taxes."

Gregoire's campaign said the governor has stated repeatedly that any proposed tax increase "should go to a vote of the people."

The governor also has said nobody should be talking about taxes now, given turmoil in the economy.

The stem-cell debate has been used by the Gregoire campaign to highlight the differences between the two candidates on social issues, including abortion.

Gregoire supports legal abortion. Rossi has said he's not running on the issue and doubts if a bill restricting abortion would ever come before him if he's elected. But he's indicated that he would sign such a bill.

Andrew Garber: 360-236-8268 or agarber@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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