A tight race in a swing district was once again the backdrop for AMPAC’s annual Campaign School on April 13-17 in Arlington, VA. 27 participants from 15 states (AR, CA, CT, DC, GA, HI, IA, IN, MA, NE, NY, OH, OK, PA, VA) worked on the Congressional “campaigns” of either a Democrat or Republican. The participants included 21 physicians, 3 medical students and 3 spouses.
The program opened with a talk from U.S. Senator (and AMPAC alumnus) John Barrasso, MD of Wyoming. Dr. Barrasso talked about his path to public service, starting with his weekly appearances on television 30 years ago that helped him become known as “Wyoming’s Doctor.” Reflecting on a half-decade in the state legislature followed by almost 10 years in the U.S. Senate, he recommended that aspiring physician officeholders sharpen their communicating skills, keeping in mind that they need to master the newest communication channels. Dr. Barrasso reminded the participants that more doctors are needed in public office, but that campaigns require careful planning and a willingness to take advantage of opportunities when they arise. He noted that plenty of candidates with great campaign plans still lose elections, but no candidate ever got elected without a great plan.
The Campaign School is AMPAC’s annual program for AMA member physicians, residents, students, spouses and state medical society staff who want to improve their political campaign skills. The core curriculum remains centered on building skills in campaign strategy and message; and the 2016 Workbook allowed participants an advance opportunity to learn the basics of strategy, targeting and message. A series of online videos augmented the Workbook, and will hopefully provide the basis for transitioning portions of the curriculum to a webinar or web recording format. New sessions this year included a talk on digital media buying, where participants saw the relative low cost and expansive reach of social media advertising, and a new social media exercise, where the teams were each given a scenario (appearing at a county fair, lead up to a debate, etc.) and then came up with plans to engage voters on Facebook.
The initial reception from the attendees was quite positive; 100% of attendees strongly agreed (a 5 on a 5-point scale) with the statement, “This school increased my understanding of the basic elements of a successful political campaign.”
Please stay tuned for information on the 2017 Campaign School and Candidate Workshop!