FRANKFORT – First lady Jane Beshear and state Democratic Rep. Joni Jenkins of Shively took issue with Republican U.S. Senate nominee Rand Paul Thursday on his comments about federal funding for breast cancer research.
In a telephone conference arranged by the campaign of Paul’s Democratic opponent, Jack Conway, Mrs. Beshear voiced concern about a Paul comment at a Northern Kentucky town hall meeting in September 2009 in which he said he generally favors more research funding at the state level than at the federal.
In response to the phone conference, Jesse Benton, Paul’s campaign manager, said in an e-mail, “As a doctor and devoted husband of 20 years, Dr. Paul is deeply concerned about the scourge of breast cancer and will fight to ensure we do all we can to find a cure.”
The Conway camp released a video of the town hall meeting in which a woman asked Paul, a Bowling Green eye surgeon, if he would protect federal funding for breast cancer.
Paul said his “general thought is the more local the better, rather than federal.”
He quickly added, “And I am not saying I will or will not promote more federal funding for breast cancer research. I am in favor of breast cancer research.”
He said the only debate about the research is whether the funding is through federal block grants, the federal National Institute of Health or public universities.
“And most of the universities get most of their funding through state funds,” Paul said.
“So it is not a matter of being for or against the funds, but being my general proposition that more things should be done at the state and less at the federal level, unless there is a constitutional mandate at the federal level.”
Mrs. Beshear, a Democrat who said she has lost “two best friends” to breast cancer and that the disease has affected more than 3,000 women in Kentucky in the last year, said the University of Kentucky and University of Louisville receive a significant amount of funding from the federal government.
The Conway camp cited the National Science Foundation in saying the federal government provides public universities 59 percent of the nearly $42 billion for basic research funds.
It did not know exactly how many federal dollars Kentucky receives for breast cancer research and the percentage of federal support it receives compared to other funding sources.
“To say we shouldn’t marshal everything that we can from every resource – federal and from every other place toward finding a cure greatly concerns me,” Mrs. Beshear said.
Jenkins said federal funds are necessary to combat breast cancer.