Stem cell researcher enters political fray

UC Irvine neurobiologist Hans Keirstead, a Democrat running for Congress against Rep. Dana Rohrabacher in Orange County. (Photo: UC Irvine)

A relatively obscure stem cell scientist last week one-upped — sort of — one of the more powerful lawmakers in the United States Senate.

It was not a direct, head-to-head contest — just sort of a rough comparison involving Democratic politics in California.

The two individuals involved are Hans Keirstead, who is touting his involvement in the creation of the $3 billion California stem cell agency,  and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who has served in the Senate for 26 years.

Despite her long track record, last week she did not receive the endorsement of the California state Democratic Party for re-election, apparently because she was not right type of liberal for the activists who dominate the party. The party, indeed, did not endorse any Democrat in Feinstein’s re-election contest.

At its convention this past weekend, however, the party did endorse Keirstead in a Southern California congressional race.  He is running to replace Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, who was once described oddly by a fellow Republican as “Putin’s favorite congressman.” 

Keirstead, who did much of his research at UC Irvine, is trumpeting his stem cell work as part of his campaign. Here is a sample from a campaign web page:In political terms, Keirstead is indeed obscure, having never run for office before. However, he has achieved some recognition within the stem cell world, but most of that population does not vote in his district.

“Hans served as a lead scientific advisor for the California Stem Cell Initiative which established a $3 billion stem cell research fund to support medical innovation in California.”

The two candidates who receive the most votes in the June primary election will face off in November, whether they are Democrats or Republican. Keirstead has seven likely Democratic candidates facing him, according to one report. However, the filing deadline to run is March 9.

Rohrabacher is widely regarded as vulnerable and Democrats nationally are hoping to remove him from office in November.

Feinstein is way ahead in the polls in her separate race and vastly better financed than her opposition. The Democratic Party’s lack of endorsement gained considerable attention in the mainstream media, but her backers said it provided little tangible benefit for her Democratic opponents. 

Ed’s Note: David Jensen is a retired newsman who has followed the affairs of the $3 billion California stem cell agency since 2005 via his blog, the California Stem Cell Report, where this story first appeared. He has published more than 4,000 items on California stem cell matters in the past 11 years.


Want to see more stories like this? Sign up for The Roundup, the free daily newsletter about California politics from the editors of Capitol Weekly. Stay up to date on the news you need to know.

Sign up below, then look for a confirmation email in your inbox.


Support for Capitol Weekly is Provided by: