The results for health professionals running for Congress in last week’s midterm elections — with a few exceptions — were similar to those for other similar candidates: incumbents did very well, while challengers had a tougher time.
Sen. Rand Paul, MD (R-Ky.), an ophthalmologist, coasted to reelection, as did representatives Buddy Carter, BSPharm (R-Ga.), a pharmacist; Lauren Underwood, RN (D-Ill.), a nurse; Larry Bucshon, MD (R-Ind.), a cardiothoracic surgeon; Brad Wenstrup, DPM (R-Ohio), a podiatrist; Raul Ruiz, MD (D-Calif.), an emergency physician; Ami Bera, MD (D-Calif.), an internist; Andy Harris, MD (R-Md.), an anesthesiologist; and Kim Schrier, MD (D-Wash.), a pediatrician.
Other health professionals reelected on Tuesday included Scott DesJarlais, MD (R-Tenn.), a family physician; Neal Dunn, MD (R-Fla.), a surgeon; Michael Burgess, MD (R-Texas), an ob/gyn; Ronny Jackson, MD (R-Texas), an emergency doctor and former White House physician; and dentists Paul Gosar, DDS (R-Ariz.), Brian Babin, DDS (R-Texas), and Drew Ferguson, DMD (R-Ga.).
For non-incumbent health professionals running for Congress, the results were more mixed. In what was probably the most closely watched congressional race involving a physician, Republican Mehmet Oz, MD, a surgeon and TV personality, lost the race to replace retiring Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) to Pennsylvania’s Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman by a margin of 46.6% to 51%.
One issue in the race was the stroke Fetterman suffered in May, which left him with ongoing speech challenges. “If John Fetterman had ever eaten a vegetable in his life, then maybe he wouldn’t have had a major stroke and wouldn’t be in the position of having to lie about it constantly,” an Oz spokeswoman, Rachel Tripp, said in a statement, the New York Times reported.
Results in House races involving physicians also varied. Rich McCormick, MD, a Republican emergency physician who was making his second try for Congress in Georgia, won his race, defeating Democratic opponent Bob Christian 62.2% to 37.8%. In Colorado’s 8th district, where votes were still being tabulated, Yadira Caraveo, MD, a Democratic pediatrician, was narrowly ahead of her opponent, Republican state senator Barbara Kirkmeyer, by a margin of 48.4% to 47.7%.
Meanwhile, in California’s 40th district, Asif Mahmood, MD, a Democrat and pulmonologist, lost to Republican opponent Young Kim by a margin of 57.6% to 42.4%. Also in California, votes were still being counted in the 3rd district where, with about half of the votes in, Democrat Kermit Jones, MD, a family physician, was trailing Republican state legislator Kevin Kiley, 47% to 53%. In South Carolina, Democrat Annie Andrews, MD, a pediatrician, lost to incumbent Republican Nancy Mace by a margin of 56.5% to 42.5%.
Regardless of the outcome in a particular race, “physicians have a useful role to play and they have a community that is increasingly aware of the impact and results of politicians’ decisions on patients and their community,” Shaughnessy Naughton, founder and president of 314 Action, a group that aims to recruit, train, and elect doctors and scientists to public office, said in an interview prior to the election. “There’s a real need for people with those professional qualifications in elected office.”
Naughton, whose candidates are primarily Democrats, added that although the basic math of elections means that most candidates will lose, “it’s incredibly important to run credible campaigns and candidates who talk about issues they’re passionate about. That alone makes a difference — too often, politicians go unchallenged.”