A series tracking five scientists who are running for office.
Family physician Kathie Allen was laying careful plans for a run against U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz when the Utah Republican announced in late April he would retire from Congress in 2018.
Since then, Allen, a Democrat, has had to put her campaign into warp drive. The district, which includes Provo and Orem, is “deep red,” she said — one of the most conservative in the nation. But as a family physician, she thinks voters will trust her, especially as she denounces the GOP’s efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
“I have 30 years of demonstrating actions to improve people’s quality of life,” Allen said.
There are other ways her medical background may translate into success in the political arena, she believes. Primary care physicians “develop a keen sense of compassion,” she said. "We stop judging and we just try to find solutions. We don’t know how much is genetic, or environmental. You just deal with it and don’t blame the patient, because he’s sick.”
Indeed, her campaign slogan touts her medical background: “Strong Medicine for the 3rd Congressional District.”
Although this is Allen’s first time as a candidate, it’s not her first foray into politics. Before enrolling at Loma Linda Medical School in 1980, she served as a congressional aide to Rep. Shirley Pettis (R-Calif.). Then she worked as a housing and community development coordinator in San Bernardino County.
The campaign is time-consuming, but Allen still sees patients two days a week. Building a political operation from the ground up — and on such short notice — while caring for patients “is like an internship in medicine,” she said: It’s both exhausting and exhilarating.
At her side, and behind the wheel on most whistle stops, is her husband, Craig Fineshriber, a retired percussionist for the Utah Symphony. Once Chaffetz announced his intention to quit Congress, Fineshriber told Allen, “Let’s do this thing.” Since then, he’s been an advisor, chauffeur and right-hand man for the campaign, said Allen’s campaign manager, Emily Bingham.
In April, she joined in the March for Science in Washington. She said she is perplexed by what she sees as the Trump administration’s hostility to science — and to facts.
“This is an administration that would never put a man on the moon or cure diseases. They just reject data,” Allen said. “At the March for Science, we were all scratching our heads and thinking, how do they think America ever got to be the power it is, esteemed by the world?"