Wednesday, February 21, 2018

How A Good Candidate Becomes A Better Candidate-- By Running For Office


Perhaps you remember that last year Kathie Allen was one of the first Democrats after Trump was installed who took on the difficult task of running in a special election in a red, red district, in her case Utah's 3rd Congressional District, the seat that Jason Chaffetz was abandoning. The district is 90.5% white, 10.2% Latino and just 0.6% Black. The Utah County portion of the district is one of the reddest counties in America and it proved impossible for Kathie. It proves impossible for any Democrat. Hillary took only 14% of it. In 2012 Obama took 10%. We're happy Kathie is running for an open state Senate seat this year-- and we're happy Utah County isn't part of it!

The Utah state Senate is comprised of 29 senators, and only 5 are Democrats. Her district was held by a moderate Republican physician who resigned in December to take a regional post in the federal Department of Health and Human Services.

  Goal Thermometer45% of state Senate 8 lies within CD-03 where Kathie spent 2017 campaigning. And she won that part of the district by 16 points. This is probably the most easily flipped state Senate seat in Utah. And Blue America endorsed Kathie for that seat today. Please consider clicking on the ActBlue thermometer for state legislative seats on the right and contributing to her campaign. In her new race, she will benefit from the great name recognition she got last year from TV ads, billboards, and publicized debates. We have many reasons to be optimistic about flipping this seat. A pressing need she has right now is to collect 2,000 signatures to insure her place on the ballot. Although she have a good base of volunteers, signature collection is slow, painstaking work. She told me yesterday she's trying to accelerate the process by hiring professionals to collect them full-time. We want to help her do that. Before is a fascinating guest post she wrote that I urge you to read. You can check out her Facebook campaign page and follow her on Twitter @kathieallenmd.

The Evolution of A Progressive
by Kathie Allen

Last year, I took on the enormously difficult task of running for Congress in the 3rd Congressional District of Utah, for the seat vacated by Jason Chaffetz. When Chaffetz was still in the race, he made a series of tone deaf comments, which I mocked on Twitter. His most egregious remark was when he said that people had to make tough choices and forego that "shiny new iPhone" so that they could pay their health insurance premiums. My responding tweet indicated that, indeed, people do have to make difficult choices-- and it suggested that people consult my CrowdPac funding page for a better choice of Congressional representative. That tweet got my Congressional campaign off to a roaring start. I earned about $500,000 in just a few weeks and still hold the fundraising record on CrowdPac for most money raised in a day.

In my case, money came in long before I had really had time to crystallize my views on various issues. I hadn’t even definitively made up my mind to enter the race when FEC rules dictated that I file due to the influx of donations. It took time for me to sort out my priorities. As a physician, I knew that healthcare would be a major focal point, but I started out with a much more "moderate" stance than where I landed.

For more than 25 years, I had been active in my state's medical association, the Utah Medical Association. Like a lot of organized doctor groups, it tends to be reactive rather than proactive. As I went through various positions of leadership within the organization, I tried to be a voice for progress and I tried to be very patient. Sometimes it would literally take decades for me to see the issues I care about finally addressed. Some of my physician friends were far less patient. In trying to advocate for universal healthcare, we would inevitably be labelled with the S word-- socialist. There could hardly be a more repellent term to some of these stodgy old doctors primarily interested in protecting their own turf and income. A lot of my progressive colleagues left this organization in frustration long before I did.

Thus, at the beginning of my campaign, I was reluctant to use terms like "universal health care" and "single payer." I'd been conditioned to expect a huge backlash. I was also running in a gerrymandered district where most of the votes came from Utah County, one of the most conservative in the nation. I thought that my message had to be tempered to this constituency.

But last summer was a time of upheaval for U.S. healthcare. We saw the inexorable efforts to repeal the ACA. People lived in fear that they would lose their coverage altogether, or that it would go back to being unaffordable with the reinstitution of "pre-existing conditions." It was in this environment that I decided to launch a series of my own healthcare townhalls. One of our speakers was Dr. Joe Jarvis, a conservative Republican. His power point show clearly demonstrated how much waste we have in our inefficient and expensive system. Dr. Jarvis showed step-by-step how healthcare cannot be considered a "commodity" and how it does not respond to market forces. I also wrote my own op-eds on healthcare reform, went to numerous rallies, and debated with people on social media. All of these interactions helped embolden me. I came to advocate for universal health care without apology or ambivalence.

In the same way, my view on legalizing medical cannabis swung from a "maybe" to a strong "yes." As a physician I knew how to look up the most current research, and I became persuaded that the evidence was strong that medical cannabis is effective for chronic pain and for childhood epilepsy. More evidence is coming in all the time that suggests additional uses-- for PTSD and depression, for example. The opioid crisis in Utah continued to worsen throughout 2017. Every week 5 Utahns died from accidental overdoses related to them. I knew that we could have additional tools with which to manage chronic pain if medical cannabis were legalized. As I witnessed this scourge, it reminded me of what it was like to live with someone with an opioid addiction, namely my physician father. I wrote an op-ed about how his addiction affected my life, and it was published in the Deseret News and can be read here.

There is a ballot initiative circulating to put legalization of medical cannabis before the voters on the November ballot. The people driving the initiative became exasperated with the slow pace with which our legislature embraced the data, and decided to appeal directly to voters, 70% of whom favor legalization.

It is this discordance between what the citizens of Utah want and what our state legislature does that induced me to run for a state senate seat. We have a record number of ballot initiatives this year, aiming to expand Medicaid, institute a fair redistricting advisory board, legalize medical cannabis, and increase state spending for education. We have no female physician and no Democrat physician in either house of the legislature. There are only 5 Democrats out of 29 in our Senate. And my race, in district 8, is said to be the most flippable. District 8 is completely contained within the boundaries of Salt Lake County, which tends to be much more progressive than the rest of the state. And, I have a proven record-- 45% of this Senate district was within my congressional district race just last November. I won this 45% by 16 percentage points! I definitely moved the needle in Salt Lake County, almost tying my Republican opponent who went on to win. Fortunately, the most conservative elements of Salt Lake County are not part of Senate district 8. The demographics of the remaining 55% are similar to the 45% I won a mere 3 months ago. This is not Trump country.

I did pay a price for some of my progressive views. I sought the endorsement of the Utah Medical Association. During my candidate interview I stated that I was in favor of universal healthcare and medical cannabis. Despite my having won an award from the UMA for my prior activism, they chose to endorse my opponent, a non-physician Republican who was in favor of letting the free market decide healthcare. That was the last straw for me, ending my long membership in the UMA. It's not easy being on the vanguard of change!

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At 4:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Utah is a good place to teleport to the Planet Kolob. Think they'd let us ship the Southern Baptists for them to look down upon?


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