- The well-funded ER doctor is running a very competitive race against a Republican incumbent who has admitted to 11 House ethics violations.
Dr. Hiral Tipirneni is making waves and turning heads. Running in Arizona’s 6th Congressional District, the charismatic ER doctor, is being looked at by the Democratic party as the answer to their prayers.
And while the incumbent Republican Congressman David Schweikert has held that seat since 2013, the Democratic Party hopes Tipirneni will turn the historically red district blue. The race is considered a toss-up by pollsters.
Tipirneni is not new to politics. In 2016, she ran and lost from Arizona’s 8th Congressional District. The district is overwhelmingly White, mostly older voters who have retired to the warm Phoenix suburbs. The seat had been held by a Republican since 1995.
Predictably, in 2016, President Trump won the district by 20 points.
And when a special election was held to fill the seat in the spring of 2018, it was expected to be a landslide for the GOP. Democratic Tipirneni, however, lost by only four points, closing the gap. The result made national headlines. Tipirneni ran again in 2018 Midterms and lost again by a narrow margin. But in 2020 she is running in the neighboring 6th District, which is said to be slightly more moderate.
The nationwide suburban swing towards Democrats, Schweikert’s recent scandals, and Tipirneni’s profile as a doctor in a state and district that’s been especially hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, and her fundraising prowess could make this race especially competitive.
In July 2020, Schweikert reached a deal with the House Ethics Committee concluding a two-year investigation. The deal included a $50,000 fine and a formal sanction for improper use of official resources for re-election efforts and for violating campaign finance rules. Schweikert admitted to 11 counts of misconduct. He attributed most of the violations to his former chief of staff and said, “I have to apologize for where I failed to do my job in supervising. I have to explain it. But it has been polled multiple times and it doesn’t move voters.”
As to why switch from the 8th to the 6th district, Tipirneni talking to The Lily says, “I’m proud of what we did in the eighth. We made a huge impact and shaved 16 points off the gap in the 2016 election. But I also feel that we did everything we could in that district. I turned over every rock and stone. District 6 is more moderate and went to Trump by 10 points instead of 20. And after 2018, a lot of folks reached out to me and said, ‘Let’s keep going, let’s keep building on this momentum’.”
Tipirneni adds, “These are communities I know well. I’ve lived in Arizona for over 24 years. I live on the border. I’ve cared for families all across Maricopa County.” Now, she feels the time is right to serve her community in a new way — in office.
So, what made her join the race? Speaking to Caroline Kitchener of The Lily, Tipirneni said, “It was the day after the 2016 election and I was speaking to my two daughters who were both in college at the time. I was giving them a pep talk, and one of the things I said was that more women had to run for office. And my oldest daughter said, “Well Mom, if not you, then who?”
She adds, “I didn’t have an answer for her.”
A product of a true American immigrant story, Tipirneni moved to the U.S. when she was 3, Tipirneni is in awe of her parents, who left home in search of the American dream, with no guarantee of getting jobs, to give their children a world-class education, so that they could be whatever they wanted to.
A structural engineer by profession, her father (34) could not find an engineering job and so worked on the assembly line in a paint factory.
The family struggled in their early years in the U.S. Her parents even owned and managed a 7-Eleven for about 15 months. Tipirneni speaking to Kitchener said, “That was like my day-care center before I went to school.”
Tipirneni believes that her true American story began when her father got a job as an engineer in Cleveland, Ohio and moved his family to a middle class working town, on the west side of Cleveland. “We were the only non-White family in town. I never went to school with another brown kid,” she said in an interview with The Lily adding, “It’s funny, you get so used to knowing you’re the only brown kid in the room, that it doesn’t hit you until someone else points it out. But I do remember noticing the cultural differences. My parents, having been raised in India, obviously it was a new world. There were things I was hesitant to even ask to be able to do.”
Dating, dances, prom. Even sleepovers were a big deal for Tipirneni. “Fortunately, my mom was fairly progressive for her Indian generation, so she was much more open to all these ideas of American life than my dad at the time,” she tells The Lily.
Tipirneni’s mother, a social worker, was the director of a downtown Cleveland senior center and initiated its Meals on Wheels program. Tipirneni often accompanied her mother, and it was then she began to feel the tremendous impact small acts of service can have on another person.
Following a childhood illness, Tipirneni was inspired to learn more about medicine and, after graduating from public school, she eventually earned her medical degree through an accelerated, competitive program at Northeast Ohio Medical University. Tipirneni chose to pursue emergency medicine which allowed her to be the first point of contact for patients.
Health care is the top issue for Tipirneni, a doctor who has worked in the emergency room for over 10 years. “I don’t think there’s ever been a moment when it’s been more clear that we need more physicians in politics,” she tells The Lily.
“You can’t represent constituents if you can’t put yourself in someone else’s shoes. As an emergency room physician, you walk into a room with someone you’ve never met before. It’s not your regular patient that you would have as a family doctor. You have no rapport. But in minutes, this person has to have full faith and trust in you. They have to believe you’re going to do everything you can for them. That takes some skill. And as women physicians, we have those skills and we have honed them through experience,” she told The Lily.
Endorsing Tipirneni in October, Presidential candidate Joe Biden said, “In the emergency room, Dr. Hiral Tipirneni saw firsthand how our health care system is broken, with too many patients refusing treatment or delaying care because of the cost. Dr. Tipirneni took an oath to put her patients first, and in Congress she will do the same – working across the aisle to give her constituents access to the affordable and quality health care they deserve.”
Tipirneni tells The Lily with an air of finality, “I’m running for Congress because we are in a state of crisis. Families are struggling across the district and the nation. Folks are incredibly upset about the depths of corruption in Washington. They’re so frustrated by the constant lies.”
All eyes will be on Arizona’s 6th District come Nov 3, 2020.
Anu Ghosh immigrated to the U.S. from India in 1999. Back in India she was a journalist for the Times of India in Pune for 8 years and a graduate from the Symbiosis Institute of Journalism and Communication. In the U.S., she obtained her Masters and PhD. in Communications from The Ohio State University. Go Buckeyes! She has been involved in education for the last 15 years, as a professor at Oglethorpe University and then Georgia State University. She currently teaches Special Education at Oak Grove Elementary. She is also a mom to two precocious girls ages 11 and 6.