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Danforth, other GOP stem-cell research advocates, may play bigger role

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 12, 2010 - Missouri’s socially moderate Republican wing, led by retired Sen. John C. Danforth, is once again flexing its political muscles -- this time by playing a higher-profile role in Misouri’s continued debate over certain types of embryonic stem-cell research.

The Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures, which led the successful 2006 campaign in favor of Amendment 2, announced today that it has hired Dena Ladd as its new exective director.

Ladd is the former state director of the national Republican Leadership Council, co-founded by Danforth and former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman. The council seeks to promote candidates who are fiscal conservatives but social moderates.

Ladd also was involved in the Lifesaving Cures Coalition’s earlier efforts that resulted in the victory of Amendment 2, which protects all forms of stem-cell research allowed under federal law.

According to the coalition, Ladd already has helped organize a new advisory council for the Coalition for Lifesaving Cures that also has some familiar names:

-- Sam Fox, founder of Harbour Group, former ambassador to Belgium under former President George W. Bush and a major GOP donor;

-- Joe Schlafly, senior vice president of Stifel Nicolaus and a prominent Republican donor;

-- Dr. Sessions Cole, chief medical officer for St. Louis Children’s Hospital, and assistant vice chancellor for children’s health at the Washington University School of Medicine.

Cole figured prominently in some of the ads aired by the coaltion during the spirited campaign for and against Amendment 2. Fox is among the nation's top Republican donors.

Coalition chairman Donn Rubin praised Ladd as the "perfect addition to our team."

"Dena is already moving us forward," Rubin said in a statement. "She understands how vitally important medical research is to Missouri patients and their families, and she excels at building relationships that will make our efforts even more successful."

Aside from her posts with the coalition and GOP leadership council, Ladd also has served for several years on the board of directors of the Missouri Children’s Trust Fund for the prevention of child abuse.

Ladd’s selection, and the formation of the coalition’s advisory council, signals that leaders may be gearing up for another possible battle with the state GOP’s social conservatives, many of whom oppose some of the research now protected under Amendment 2. Some legislative and legal efforts already have been launched by conservatives seeking to narrow Amendment 2’s scope.

Today's announcement marks another in a series in recent days where Danforth or an allied group (such as the Leadership Council) have played a political role. Last week, for example, Danforth and the council endorsed a candidate for the state Senate.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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