Scientist-backed PAC endorses Dana Rohrabacher's challenger

Science is running for Congress

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published June 26, 2017 6:51AM (EDT)

Dana Rohrabacher   (AP/Lauren Victoria Burke)
Dana Rohrabacher (AP/Lauren Victoria Burke)

Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California is a well-known science denier, particularly when it comes to the issue of man-made climate change. In response, 314 Action, a new PAC that exists to help elect scientists to public office, is officially endorsing a Democratic rival to oppose Rohrabacher in his 2018 reelection campaign.

Dr. Hans Keirstead is a PhD neuroscientist, cancer doctor and former UC Irvine School of Medicine professor, as well as the first non-incumbent endorsement that 314 Action has made.

"Scientists are trained to follow the facts no matter where they lead," Keirstead told Salon through email. "Many times, a hypothesis does not get borne out by the facts. Science isn't about opinions or how you feel. It's about the pursuit of truth, and as a scientist, I have learned the value of real evidence and data. I believe my career developing successful, breakthrough cancer treatments through stem cell research will speak to people."

Keirstead's work on stem cell research has helped with treatment of various cancers, multiple sclerosis, and Lou Gehrig's disease, among other medical conditions.

Rohrabacher claims that he "loves science," a fact that Keirstead insists is only the first step toward actually using science in a responsible way as a policymaker.

“Understanding how science effects every day American’s lives? That’s where a policy maker who understands science makes their impact," Keirstead explained. "I have seen firsthand how it can save lives by investing in medical research that leads to curing cancer or changing lives by providing jobs and infrastructure to a community like Orange County."

The Trump administration's budget is a "war on facts" that the scientific community knows all about, said Shaughnessy Naughton, a chemist who founded 314 Action. 

"Whether it's his massive cuts to research budgets, his views on climate change, vaccines, the decision to pull out of the Paris Agreement, or countless others, science is under attack right now. While we don't have a set criteria of policies for candidates who come to us, support for research funding and a recognition of the urgency with which we need to act on combating climate change."

"Compare that with what is happening in Washington today with Trump’s budget proposal,"Keirstead added. "They are slashing funding for the National Institute of Health and doubling user fees on small businesses. That has a direct effect on the work I and many in the medical field do. I guarantee you that if our research lab’s fees were doubled, my cancer treatment would not have gone to clinical trials. We need representatives who understand the direct consequences of their proposals and, sadly, I’m not convinced many do."

It remains to be seen whether Naughton and Keirstead's support for reason can triumph not only in the laboratory, but in voting booths as well.

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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314 Action Dana Rohrabacher Donald Trump Hans Keirstead Partner Video