A Sioux Falls physician is exploring a run for the U.S. Senate.
Dr. Annette Bosworth, 41, said she wants to talk to more South Dakota voters before deciding for sure whether to seek the Republican nomination. But she’s already visited Washington, D.C., to meet with potential supporters and has come up with a few campaign pledges, including a promise to term limit herself if elected.
"I feel very confident I have a voice that matches South Dakota, but not confident enough I won’t listen and sit still with South Dakotans, and really, truly understand if this is something they want," Bosworth said Monday.
Bosworth said she’ll decide whether to run in the next month.
In an interview with the Argus Leader, Bosworth cast herself as a “change agent” who represented a “new generation” of Republican leadership, and said she’s running against “career politicians.”
If Bosworth does run, it would be her first bid for elected office, but not her first time in the spotlight. She previously made the news for a long-running battle with the South Dakota Board of Medical and Osteopathic Examiners, which involved accusations from both sides and ended in a settlement.
She says standing up to the board’s charges — which at one time threatened her medical license — demonstrated fortitude and character she says will serve her well in Congress.
"Your approach to how to be a change agent is about a strong character, someone who can stand still in the midst of adversity and in challenges," Bosworth said. "Those types of character developments will lead to a better politician."
Bosworth cast herself as an innovator trying to bring change, both in her medical practice and in politics. She cast her dispute with the medical board as an example of big government trying to quash innovation.
Among other things, the board had accused Bosworth of improperly employing an unlicensed physician’s assistant. She agreed to repay some Medicaid reimbursements but didn’t admit wrongdoing.
If Bosworth were to win, she would be the first U.S. Senator from South Dakota without political experience since Chan Gurney was elected in 1938. But she disparaged the importance of experience in government, calling it an outmoded idea.
"There is a different philosophy for Gen X-ers that says, take the experiences you have in life and apply them to the job you’re going to do," Bosworth said. "Use the morals and the skills you’ve honed in the industry you’ve been using and apply those."
One Republican has already entered the South Dakota Senate race, former Gov. Mike Rounds. Bosworth said his experience as governor weren’t good preparation for the U.S. Senate.
"Does South Dakota want a career politician?" Bosworth said when asked why she’d run against Rounds in the Republican primary. "(Or) does South Dakota want a different choice? That’s the conversation I hope to have over the next month."
Rounds released a statement very similar to his campaign’s responses to previous potential candidates.
"We are focused on building a strong, statewide organization," Rounds’ aide Rob Skjonsberg said in the statement. "We’ve said from the beginning that we’ll be prepared to take on all comers."
Relatively unknown candidates occasionally beat popular politicians like Rounds, but usually don’t, said Ken Blanchard, a political science professor at Northern State University in Aberdeen.
"Rounds is seasoned, he’s well-liked, he’s won twice statewide. Those are things that make a candidate pretty strong for the Senate," Blanchard said. "You would think, given his strong position going out the starting gate, that he would be hard for a relatively unknown candidate — or even a better-known candidate — to challenge."
But Blanchard said that sometimes voters just opt for a fresh face. That, or mistakes by Rounds’ campaign, or a bitter battle against another high profile challenger like Rep. Kristi Noem, could all open the door to a dark horse like Bosworth, he said.
Bosworth said health care is her principal policy focus. She said she’s a fierce opponent of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
"I think South Dakotans need a strong voice to come up with an innovative way to not have big government running medicine," Bosworth said.
She also said her faith is leading her toward the race.
"The trials of the last three years, I’ve really felt that God has been preparing me for something that I couldn’t see," she said. "I still don’t have the vision of God, but I would like to have a conversation with South Dakota to see if they’re interested in a new generation of politicians in the Republican Party to lead South Dakota for the next six years."