CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Will West Virginia’s Congressional candidates support continued or even enhanced federal funding for medical research? It’s a question those with Research America said lawmakers wanting to represent the Mountain State in Washington, D.C. need to answer for the voters before election day.

“Because they make the laws and create the policies and drive funding decisions and make those funding decisions, they’re the ones that make it possible for the research universities in West Virginia, the companies — small and large — who are doing medical and health-related research and technology, to do their jobs,” said Mary Woolley, president and CEO of Research America.

Those with her organization, a non-profit advocacy alliance, are working to get candidates on the record about research ahead of the Nov. 4 general election. To do that, they’ve launched a new ‘Ask Your Candidate’ voter education initiative here — calling on voters to hold their candidates accountable.

“It’s early before the election,” Woolley told MetroNews. “In our experience, the real attention that candidates pay to our issue comes at about this time of the year.”

During 2013 alone, West Virginia lost more than $20 million in federal funding from the National Institutes of Health because of spending cuts through the sequestration for medical research at institutions like West Virginia University and Marshall University.

Such medical research, Woolley said, can save lives. But, too often these days, she argued, Congress only seems capable of focusing on the short-term with funding allocations in many areas — not just research.

“Our infrastructure, our education system and our medical and other broader science research just aren’t getting the attention that they used to in this country,” she said. “All three of them have in common being long-term investments that we also see the value of every day.”

As of now, only one Congressional candidate in West Virginia has responded to Research America’s questions about research funding. David Jones, a Libertarian candidate in the 2nd District, said the government should allow for medical research “without interference and overregulation.”

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