2006 election: Mixing pharmacy and politics

November 6, 2006

Predictions of a revolt against Republicans at the ballot box did not deter Mike Barrett, R.Ph., from running for the House of Representatives. Barrett, a pharmacist at a 34-bed hospital, challenged eight-term Democrat Collin Petersen to represent northwestern Minnesota. "Many people have told me that it is probably not a good year to be a Republican, but my district is almost evenly split between both parties with about 10% undecided," said Barrett, pharmacy manager at Long Prairie Memorial Hospital and Home.

Barrett is one of many R.Ph.s running for office in this year's midterm elections. There are more than 40 pharmacists serving as legislators in local and national offices. Many of them are seeking reelection this year.

"We've always encouraged community pharmacists to be active in politics, and there is no more direct way to participate in the political process than by holding public office," said Bruce Roberts, R.Ph., executive VP/CEO of the National Community Pharmacists Association. "Over the years, many pharmacists have been elected to local, state, and national office, and it is always valuable to pharmacy to have someone who understands pharmacy and health care in those positions."

Barrett seeks to join Berry and Ross in Congress, but 2006 will probably not be the year. Not only is there a negative tide against Republican candidates, Barrett does not have the name recognition or the funds to muster a significant challenge to unseat Petersen. Additionally, Barrett has limited time to campaign because he works full-time and is the only pharmacist at the hospital.

Barrett told Drug Topics that it is always difficult for a newcomer to run for the first time. "I'm in this for the long haul and will run again if necessary. It took my opponent three tries to get elected."