Hill Gears Up for the Race for the Cure

Posted June 3, 2008 at 3:52pm

Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.) is rallying fellow Members to turn out in record numbers on Saturday for the Race for the Cure to honor the legacy of Rep. Jo Ann Davis (R-Va.), who died in October after a two-year battle with breast cancer.

“This is as nonpartisan as a Congressional challenge gets,” Wittman said in an April 3 memo.

With more than 30 Congressional teams registered, the Hill has already topped last year’s participation of 27 teams, an impressive leap from the four teams registered in 2005 and six in 2006, according to David Marin, a spokesman for Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure.

Wittman said he was very pleased with the response to his letter.

The Virginia Republican, who was elected in December to fill Davis’ former seat, said the race is a way to “remember Jo Ann’s commitment and perseverance to finding a cure.”

Some of the catchiest Congressional team names registered include, On Your Markey (Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Ed Markey), The Purse Strings (House Appropriations Committee minority staff), Souder’s Striders (Indiana Republican Rep. Mark Souder) and Texas Trailblazers (Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison).

Organizers expect more than 50,000 people to gather on the National Mall for the 19th annual Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, the largest series of 5K runs/fitness walks in the world. Last year, $3.3 million of the funds raised stayed in the Washington, D.C., community, which has one of the highest national breast cancer mortality rates due in part to disparities in residents’ access to breast health, cancer screening and treatment services.

Wittman isn’t the only Member cheerleading for the race.

Team Boog (New Mexico Democratic Sen. Jeff Bingaman), with 21 members, currently holds the title for largest Congressional team, according to Race for the Cure. Vying for second place are Team Levin (Michigan Democratic Rep. Sander Levin) with 17 members and The Capitol Domes (the House Appropriations Committee majority staff) with 16 members.

Hilarie Chambers, Levin’s chief of staff, said her office recruited former staffers and family members to join the team, using the race as a chance for a “mini-reunion.”

Defending champion Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), whose team had 80 participants last year, plans to deliver “another strong team.”

“Last year’s team really set the bar for Congressional participation,” Press Secretary Austin Durrer said in an e-mail. “We’d love to see other offices try and top it.”

With registration continuing until the day before the race, the title of largest Congressional team is still up for grabs.

Still, others are finding more creative ways to support the race.

Members of the The Second Amendments, the House rock band featuring Reps. Thaddeus McCotter (R-Mich.), Jon Porter (R-Nev.) and Kenny Hulshof (R-Mo.), will be lending their voices at a pre-race reception Friday evening at the Newseum.

Reps. Sue Myrick (R-N.C.), Lois Capps (D-Calif.) and Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) are scheduled to speak at a pep rally on the steps of the Capitol to kick off Lobby Day on Thursday morning. Longtime cancer treatment advocate Rep. Deborah Pryce (R-Ohio), who co-chairs the House Cancer Caucus, was a main organizer of the event but will no longer be speaking because of a family emergency. She has organized her own team, Gas Pryces, on which every member of her staff plans to participate. After losing her 9-year-old daughter to cancer in 1999, the Congresswoman has been a leading voice on the Hill for greater attention to pediatric cancer.

“The disease is no longer the mystery it once was, and armies of cancer advocates are increasingly demanding our government to become more engaged in the fight,” Pryce said in a statement. “For anyone who has lost a loved one to cancer, the [race] is an incredible venue to demonstrate our commitment to winning this battle.”

Celebrity Ricardo Chavira, from the sitcom “Desperate Housewives,” will be among about 250 Komen affiliates and cancer survivors urging Members on Lobby Day to pass legislation that supports cancer treatment, prevention and research, and particularly a bill Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) plans to introduce to update the National Cancer Act of 1971.

To date, 23 Members, three Senators and five other Congressional offices have registered teams, according to Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure.

Registration will continue through Friday at nationalraceforthecure.org or 703-416-RACE. A late registration site will be open from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Thursday and Friday at the Department of Commerce, 1401 Constitution Ave. NW.