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I'm Not a Doctor

A second opinion on the challenges and opportunities facing today's physicians.
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By Andis Robeznieks

Blog: Most GOP doctors cruise to victory, Democrat docs eke out a couple of seats

12:15 pm, Nov. 7

Election Day has finally come and gone, and although it's true that the number of Democrat doctors in the U.S. House of Representatives will have tripled once the new Congress is sworn in, the statistic isn't all that significant—their numbers grew from one to three. In the Senate, Democrat docs saw no gain in ranks.

On the Republican side, there are currently 15 doctors in the House. Dr. Ron Paul of Texas ran unsuccessfully for president and didn't seek re-election to Congress, and New York ophthalmologist Dr. Nan Hayworth lost her re-election bid. Dr. Charles Boustany, a cardiovascular surgeon, won his race but faces a run-off against fellow Republican Jeff Landry on Dec. 8. No new GOP physicians were elected.

In the Senate, the only incumbent physician running, the GOP's Dr. John Barrasso, won handily with 75.9% of the vote. The only Democratic doc in a Senate race, Dr. Richard Carmona—a general surgeon and the former U.S. Surgeon General—lost his bid to win Arizona's open seat by a 50.4% to 45.2% vote to Republican Rep. Jeff Flake. Republican Senate Drs. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Rand Paul of Kentucky were not up for re-election.

The only incumbent Democrat physician in the House is Washington state psychiatrist Dr. James McDermott, and he won his race easily, 79.8% to 20.2%, beating Republican Ron Bemis. There is another “Doc” representing the state, but “Doc” is just the nickname of the GOP's Richard Hastings, who easily won re-election.

The two new Democratic doctors in the House came from California, where emergency medicine physician Paul Ruiz beat incumbent GOP Rep. Mary Bono Mack 51.4% to 48.6%, and general practitioner Dr. Ami Bera won one of the closest races of the night. How close? The latest figures have Bera with 88,406 votes versus 88,222 for incumbent Dan Lungren. Ruiz and Bera join Dr. Donna Christensen, the U.S. Virgin Islands' nonvoting delegate, who received 60% of the vote in her race.

Republican incumbent Dr. Dan Benishek of Michigan won another squeaker, tallying 48.2% of the vote compared with 47.5% for Democrat Gary McDowell. But the other GOP incumbent House physicians won easily—in particular, Dr. Paul Broun of Georgia, who was unopposed but who faced a write-in challenge from the late Charles Darwin as some sought to mock Braun's anti-evolution views.

Dr. Larry Bucshon of Indiana won with 53.4% of the vote; Dr. Michael Burgess of Texas won his race with 68.3% of the vote; and Dr. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana finished with 79.4% of the vote. Also scoring victories were Dr. Scott DesJarlais of Tennessee, 55.9% of the vote; Dr. John Fleming of Louisiana, 75.3%; Dr. Phil Gingrey of Georgia, 68.8%; Dr. Andy Harris of Maryland, 66.9%; Dr. Joe Heck of Nevada, the only osteopath in Congress, 50.4%; Dr. Tom Price of Georgia, 64.3%; and Dr. Phil Roe of Tennessee, 76.1% of the vote.

Another, ahem, footnote: Brad Wenstrup of Ohio is believed to be the first podiatrist elected to Congress.

Follow Andis Robeznieks on Twitter: @MHARobeznieks.

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