Saturday, June 2, 2007

Two Smart Senators from Minnesota? (The Other One Would not be Senator BlowDry)

Mr. B. has previously posted on the possibility that Peter Agre will run for Senate in Minnesota. The current issue of Science has an article on this matter. Hopefully Peter will get some traction, but this will be a very difficult task.

From: Science 25 May 2007

Nobelist Eyes Minnesota Senate Seat

Eliot Marshall

New experiment. Chemist Peter Agre may test his popularity in one of the hottest U.S. races.

Peter Agre wants to do something no Nobelist has done before: get elected to the U.S. Senate. After a colleague disclosed it in a newspaper op-ed column last week, the 2003 chemistry laureate confirmed that he is considering a run for the Senate seat now held by Minnesota Republican Norm Coleman.

Agre, 58, plans to take leave this summer from Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, where he is a professor of cell biology and vice chancellor for science and technology. He aims to test his welcome among Democrats in Minnesota, his childhood home, which he left 3 decades ago to pursue a career on the U.S. East Coast. With no campaign kitty, little public visibility, and no political experience, he concedes that the odds of winning a Democratic primary, much less the general election in November 2008, are long. But he says that Minnesota has promoted "some very unusual candidates over the years," including another student at his high school, Jesse Ventura, the professional wrestler who was elected governor.

The news that Agre is weighing a run for the Senate came as a surprise to science policy leaders, some of whom were pleased. "That he would even consider this is an extraordinary public service, for which he should be applauded," said Neal Lane, former director of the National Science Foundation and science adviser to President Bill Clinton. "It's pretty clear … that we're in dire need of serious leadership by people who think that facts are important, that evidence should be considered." Lewis Branscomb, professor emeritus of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, thinks that Agre's Nobel credentials would enable him to "fight for rational, fact-based policy decisions so essential to the survival of democracy." Former Republican House Science Committee chair Robert Walker says, "It's always positive to have scientists involved," adding that many are uncomfortable with the compromises required in public life.

Agre drew some media attention several years ago when he helped his friend Thomas Butler, a microbiologist at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas, fight charges that he had violated biohazard and accounting regulations (Science, 19 March 2004, p. 1743). Butler was convicted and sent to prison--a "disgrace," says Agre, who figures that he spent a large part of his Nobel Prize money on Butler's legal defense. Agre also endorsed a 2004 report by the Union of Concerned Scientists accusing the Bush Administration of manipulating U.S. science for political aims. His political views are left of center, although within the mainstream for Minnesota; for example, he favors universal health insurance, strong action to control carbon emissions, and more public aid for poor women seeking abortions.

Political strategists say that the Minnesota Senate race could cost candidates more than $30 million. And two well-heeled candidates are already seeking the Democratic nomination: political comic Al Franken and a popular Minneapolis attorney, Michael Ciresi. Agre says he will spend the summer with Minnesota voters to see whether his own candidacy "has traction or not."

Hopefully things will heat up soon on this soon, otherwise it is going to be too late. Ciao, Bonzo