December 1998 Bulletin

They lost races, not interest

2 orthopaedists lose election bids for seats in U.S. House

After losing a bid for a seat in the U.S. House of Representaives, William Price, MD, is mulling the future, including more political activity.

Bonnie Booth

The two orthopaedic surgeons who had hoped to have a voice in Washington come 1999 lost their congressional races on Nov. 3, but will remain politically active.

Both William Price, MD, and Gil Aust, MD, were facing incumbents.

Dr. Aust, was running for the Alabama's 5th Congressional District seat. Aust garnered 30 percent (58,507) of the vote in his losing bid to unseat Rep. Bud Cramer who was reelected with 70 percent (134,689) of the vote.

Dr. Aust said he said he will return to private practice, but he does not rule out a future run at political office.

"I'm looking forward to seeing some of my old patients," he said. "I will certainly keep an eye on the political landscape and may consider some political activity in the future. I will remain active, but I don't know whether I'll be a candidate or not."

Dr. Aust said a variety of factors contributed to his loss.

He said there seemed to be a national backlash against the Republicans, perhaps over the Clinton situation. And, he said, "I think it was a year for the incumbent. People were generally complacent. I've just seen a few of the statistics, but a vast majority of the citizens were quite satisfied with the economy and the way things are being handled."

While Dr. Aust did have a health care reform platform, he said health care issues just didn't seem to resonate with voters.

"The issues I talked about were local issues with a national influence," he said. "I talked about the Marshall Space Flight Center losing half of its funding, but people didn't feel it. It was the same with health care. It was on their agenda a couple years ago, but has since lost its focus in mind of the voting electorate."

Dr. Price said that health care reform was not an issue in his race since both he and his opponent, Rep. Jerry Costello, supported passage of a national patients' bill of rights.

Costello won 60 percent (99,605) of the vote in Illinois' 12th Congressional District. Dr. Price garnered 40 percent (65,409) of the vote.

Dr. Price, a Republican candidate, said his chances of being elected were hurt by the large voter turnout in his district by Democrats voting for the Democratic candidate for governor, who hailed from a neighboring community.

Dr. Price closed his practice more than a year ago to devote his full efforts to the campaign. He said he will catch up on his Air Force Reserve duty while looking at his options in orthopaedic surgery. He is leaning toward doing a fellowship and then perhaps becoming a medical school faculty member.

"We're looking at future political runs as we are going through the painful process of this crash and burn and trying to assess what caused us to lose," Dr. Price said. "We are going to have to make some candid assessments about whether the community would support us."

He said he hopes these two political losses do not cause orthopaedic surgeons to tune out the political process.

"On thing I did learn is that we have to be persistent in this," Dr. Price said. "More orthopaedic surgeons need to run and we need to get behind them. I hope this won't discourage us (the orthopaedic community) from supporting more physicians."


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