By Joey Berlin and Sean Price
TMA physicians, students, and Alliance members heard from state lawmakers and political consultants at TMA’s Advocacy Retreat in early December in Austin.
The retreat, organized by TEXPAC, focused on how lawmakers will be preparing for the 2019 session and what physicians can do in 2018, including running for office or advocating on issues important to medicine.
Perhaps the most important question Texas Democratic and Republican party officials had to answer was: Does bipartisanship exist anymore?
“We have very much gotten away from bipartisanship in Texas,” Crystal Kay Perkins, executive director of the Texas Democratic Party, told physicians. “Unfortunately, this [2017 Texas legislative] session was hijacked by making sure that they appeased a very small number of people – making sure that Republican primary voters were fired up and making sure that they were talking about things like abortions and bathrooms and fearmongering instead of talking about jobs and schools and health care and things that everyday Texans need.”
But James Dickey, chairman of the Republican Party of Texas, said working across the aisle isn’t dead.
“The good news is the Republican Party of Texas is a large enough organization and a tactical enough one that we are a big tent,” he said. “We have representatives who represent a wide variety, a wide spectrum politically. And yeah, we have a history of working together when we can.”
Meanwhile, four top political consultants – three Republicans and one Democrat – discussed how physicians can improve their clout with lawmakers.
Republican Eric Bearse of Bearse and Co. said the most important way to influence lawmakers is to build relationships with them, and the easiest and most effective way to do that is to volunteer for their campaigns.
“The best thing you can to is to call a campaign and say, ‘Hey, we have three or four docs that want to walk for you this Saturday. We can do a block walk and get a chance to meet the state rep or the candidate, spend a little time with him,’ “ Mr. Bearse said.
The panel also featured Republican consultants Matt Brownfield of Murphy Nasica and Associates, and Jerod Patterson of Patterson and Co. as well as Democratic adviser James Aldrete of Message Audience Presentation Inc. Brad Patt, MD, the TEXPAC membership chair, served as moderator.
“I think health care is going to be a huge conversation [in future races], especially in the suburban [legislative] districts,” Mr. Aldrete said. “I think it would be good to have house parties to open that [dialogue] up and educate people and help shape this agenda so it’s not on such a superficial level.”
At a later panel at the retreat, State Rep. Sarah Davis (R-West University Place), whose Texas Medical Center district includes more physician constituents than any of the state’s other 149 House districts, offered a simple way physicians can make a difference politically – just vote.
"Just vote,” she said. “Doctors are low voters. I harp on that all the time."
Action, Dec. 15, 2017