Veterinarians see gains in '06 elections

Voters send veterinarians back to the Senate, governorship, and state houses
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This past November, voters elected veterinarians to represent their interests in Congress, one governor's house, and several state legislatures.

Twenty-three veterinarians competed in the midterm elections Nov. 7. Veterinarians won 19 of those races, of whom 16 were incumbents and three were newcomers.

In total, including veterinarians not on the ballot this past November, veterinarians hold two seats in the U.S. Senate, a governorship, and 23 spots in state legislatures throughout the nation.

"The increase in the number of veterinarians running for office and getting elected is a very positive development," said Adrian Hochstadt, assistant director of the State Legislative and Regulatory Affairs Department of the AVMA Communications Division. "They serve as role models for those who will run in the future and show that veterinarians can make a difference by getting involved in public policy.

"These veterinarian legislators will help shape the important issues of our day while increasing the profession's visibility."

Drs. John Ensign and Sonny Perdue bucked voter frustration with Republicans and easily won re-election to the Senate representing Nevada and the Georgia governorship, respectively.

Dr. Ensign gained a second term by beating out Democrat Jack Carter, son of former President Jimmy Carter, and two independents. A 1985 graduate of Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Dr. Ensign was elected to the Senate in 2000.

Dr. Perdue continued to make history by defeating Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor to become the first Republican governor re-elected in Georgia since Reconstruction. Dr. Perdue received his DVM degree from the University of Georgia in 1971 and was elected governor of Georgia in 2002.

In state races, the following veterinarians successfully defended their seats: Drs. Steve Johnson (CO-Senate, District 15, Rep.), Eugene Maddox (GA-House, District 172, Rep.), Joe Seng (IA-Senate, District 43, Dem.), Steve Dille (MN-Senate, District 18, Rep.), James Rausch (NH-House, District 5, Rep.), Roger Wells (NH-House, District 8, Dem.), Lee Denney (OK-House, District 33, Rep.), Phil Richardson (OK-House, District 56, Rep.), Kurt Schrader (OR-Senate, District 20, Dem.), Bob Bastian (PA-House, District 69, Rep.), Charles "Doc" Anderson (TX-House, District 56, Rep.), Kathy Haigh (WA-House, District 45, Dem.), Jake Hines (WI-Assembly, District 42, Rep.), and John Mathis (UT-House, District 55, Rep.).

Drs. Ensign and Perdue

Three veterinarians were elected to state office for the first time: Drs. Cap Dierks (NE-Senate, Ind.), J.D. Aycock (TX-House, District 54, Rep.), and Louis Pinkerton (ND-House, District 5, Dem.).

Not every veterinarian was successful in their election efforts, however. Incumbent Charles Dake (MO-House, District 132, Dem.) was unseated, and Drs. Chip Beckett and Don Woerner came up short in their bids to win Senate seats in Connecticut and Montana, respectively.

At press time in November, the race between Dr. Krayton Kerns (MT-House, District 58, Rep.) and the incumbent had not been decided, with a possibility it will end in a tie.

Referendum on gestation and veal calf stalls

Also of note on Election Day, the Arizona ballot initiative banning intensive confinement of gestating pigs and calves raised for veal passed with 62 percent of the vote.

The Humane Treatment of Farm Animals Act will take effect Dec. 31, 2012. The provision requires that the animals have sufficient space to turn around, lie down, and fully extend their limbs when tethered or confined in stalls, cages, or other enclosures. There is an exception for treatment and other veterinary purposes, however.

Arizona is the first state in the nation to ban veal calf stalls and the second state to ban gestation stalls for pregnant sows. Florida outlawed the stalls in 2002 through a citizen initiative. There are concerns that similar measures could be introduced in other states as well as in Congress.

The Animal Agriculture Alliance said the voters' rejection of scientifically proven practices shows a clear misunderstanding of agriculture, one that will be a long-term deterrent to Arizona's farmers and ranchers.

"(The) vote indicates that America's farmers and ranchers need to continuously communicate their commitment on critical issues, including animal welfare, and their dedication to providing the safest, highest quality food supply in history," said Kay Johnson, AAA executive vice president.