Over the past year, the American Nurses Association (ANA) has reviewed political races across the country and met with candidates for Congress who seek ANA’s Political Action Committee (ANA-PAC) endorsement to bolster their campaigns as midterm elections approach. All political candidates must go through a rigorous process to see whether their positions and voting record align with nursing’s perspectives on several key issues. ANA-PAC is bipartisan and works with both national parties to recruit and support candidates.
As part of the screening, ANA’s senior political action specialists conduct candidate interviews and research their races through polling data, fundraising numbers, voting records, and the recent history of their congressional districts. Interviews also offer an important opportunity for ANA to build relationships with current and future members of Congress and educate them about nursing issues and legislation.
With input from the constituent and state nurses associations (C/SNAs) and approval of the ANA-PAC Board of Trustees, candidates are selected to receive an ANA-PAC endorsement. However, even with diligent research, C/SNA’s recommendations, and frank conversations beforehand, it’s difficult to know for certain whether candidates will follow through to support nurses once they arrive on Capitol Hill.
ANA-PAC has endorsed dozens of incumbents and candidates to date. Here are two races of interest to watch.
Candidate Brenda Cleary (D-NC)
A PhD-prepared geriatrics nurse and policy expert in health and aging, and a North Carolina Nurses Association member, Cleary served as a director in the AARP Public Policy Institute from 2008 to 2011. Cleary started her nursing career at the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Indianapolis. She served 14 years as executive director of the North Carolina Center for Nursing, working on nursing workforce issues. During her tenure, the supply of RNs in North Carolina grew from below the national average to well above it and the highest among southern states.
In her ANA interview for endorsement, Cleary spoke with passion about safe staffing, safe patient handling and mobility, and removal of barriers to advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) practice. Her campaign to win the 13th congressional seat is a difficult one against an entrenched opponent. To learn more, visit www.clearyforcongress.com.
Congressman David Joyce (R-OH)
A former prosecutor from Ohio, Joyce, whose wife Kelly is an RN, earned the Family Friendly Workplace Award from the Ohio State Women’s Bar Association. Currently, he serves on the powerful House Appropriations Committee and the Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services. Joyce, elected to Congress in 2013, has shown incredibly strong support for nursing issues. He introduced the RN Safe Staffing Act (H.R. 1821) with U.S. Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA), a nurse. He is also a member of the House Nursing Caucus and has supported a variety of bills and resolutions on nursing issues, including safe patient handling and mobility, the ability of APRNs to certify home health care, and Title VIII nursing workforce development program funding. Joyce faces a challenging reelection campaign. For more information, visit www.joyceforcongress.com.
According to a Gallup survey in June, congressional job approval is at 16%, which is on pace to be the lowest in a midterm-election year since Gallup first measured it in 1974. Along with a national satisfaction rate of 23%, this poses a difficult midterm election environment for congressional incumbents and an opportunity for challengers to gain ground.
ANA urges all RNs to use every opportunity to let their voices be heard. To learn more and take action, visit www.RNaction.org.
Liza Heavener is a senior political action specialist at ANA.