Today, I take a look at Dana Beyer, candidate for Senate in District 18. She’s moved from being a very successful eye surgeon to a persistent, albeit less successful, candidate. Will her fourth election seeking legislative office in District 18 prove the charm?
In all of her campaigns, Dr. Dana Beyer has heavily emphasized her history as a retired physician. Her campaign literature further details good works she did as a physician, including volunteer work in Kenya and Nepal before settling into her practice as an eye surgeon in “small-town Mississippi” where she “provided quality care to underserved populations, and was one of the only doctors to accept Medicaid patients.”
Beyer’s work as a physician was some time ago. She received her medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1978 before spending four more years training to become an eye surgeon. She then practiced from 1982 until she became disabled in 1990 due to the long-term impact of childhood traumas related to her transition. (Note: Dana has spoken about this publicly on many occasions, so I don’t feel I am speaking out of school.)
In that short time, Dana had developed an extremely successful practice. According to court documents, she earned $1.65 million in her final year. That’s the equivalent of at least $3.18 million in 2018 dollars. If just one year’s income had been invested in the S&P 500 in January 1991, that would now be worth over $2 million, and over $22 million if dividends had been reinvested.
Dana explained to me that it was not feasible to return to medicine because skills atrophy and her medical subspecialty had moved along by the time she had completed her gender transition. Due to her success in what was clearly a brilliant, short career as an eye surgeon, she was also in the unusual and enviable position of not needing to work.
The only full-time emplyment that Dana has held since leaving medicine was as Councilmember Duchy Trachtenberg’s aide when Duchy served one term on the Council from 2006 until she was defeated for reelection in 2010. During that time, Dana took a prominent role in moving forward the County’s law against discrimination based on gender identity. Otherwise, Dana says she has focused on social justice activism, particularly for transgender rights.
Running for Office
Dana has also relentlessly pursued state legislative office in District 18. She came in fifth in the delegate primary in 2006, receiving 5128 votes or 1217 less than Jeff Waldstreicher, her current opponent. In 2010, she tried again and came in fourth with 5450 votes, 1306 fewer than Al Carr who won an appointment that Dana also sought in 2007.
Running an aggressive campaign against incumbent Sen. Rich Madaleno in 2014, she took 5238 votes, or 2082 fewer than the incumbent. Now, she and Jeff Waldstreicher are facing off for the Senate vacancy caused by Madaleno’s entry into the gubernatorial race. It’s on track to be the most expensive race this year thanks to Waldstreicher’s fundraising prowess and Beyer’s willingness and ability to heavily self-finance.
Beyer has spent over $900,000 pursuing her legislative dream. Based on her past spending pattern, she is set to exceed $1 million by the time this race is over. She has spent more and more with each new election cycle with the total amount rising from $116K in 2006 to $147K in 2010, and $333K in 2014. She has already spent $308K on her current bid.
At this point, Beyer has now spent longer running for office than she did as practicing eye surgeon. This record juxtaposes somewhat uneasily against her heavy emphasis on her knowledge as a physician and, more specifically, a mail piece that advertises work she did as a physician decades ago.