Dr. Randall Friese is associate medical director for the UAMC Trauma Center, associate professor of surgery and a surgeon who operated on former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords after she was shot in 2011 — and now he’s working to add politician to his resume.
In a press conference held at the Arizona Inn yesterday, Friese announced his candidacy for the Arizona House of Representatives in the 9th Legislative District. He will be running as a Democrat under the slogan “Let’s Put a Doctor in the House!”
Friese was working at the University of Arizona Medical Center on Jan. 8, 2011, when a shooting occurred at a Safeway at Ina and Oracle Road, claiming six lives and wounding Giffords, who was speaking at an event there.
Friese operated on several of the victims who came into the trauma center that day, including Pam Simon, the community outreach coordinator for Giffords at the time. She was shot twice.
“When I hit the pavement, I snapped my eyes closed and I did not open my eyes until I was safely inside the trauma bay,” Simon said, “and the first face I looked up into was a young face with white hair [Friese].”
The events of that day led Friese to start paying attention to what was going in politics, specifically in the state capitol, he said.
“I could see the sacrifice and could see what Gabby [Giffords] was giving to the community,” Friese said. “Serving in the Legislature would be something I could do to give back to the community.”
Friese said he also sees change coming in the state and wants to be in the Legislature to help advance that change when it comes, adding that he wants education to be the focus of his campaign.
“Education is the great equalizer,” Friese said. “It levels the playing field, and it opens many closed doors.”
Friese said he grew up poor but was determined to go to college and become a doctor. He is grateful for the opportunities that allowed him to receive an education, he said, and he wants others growing up to have the opportunity to pursue an education as well.
While education is key to the platform of his campaign, Friese said he knows other issues will also come into focus, including the gun control debate.
“Gun control and responsible gun ownership legislation is in the forefront of the country and in the forefront of what I think is going to be changing in the near future,” Friese said. “It will become an important part of the campaign, and it will be an issue I will need to speak about and address.”
The amount of commitment a campaign requires is often underestimated by the average voter, said Bill Roe, chairman of the Arizona Democratic Party.
He said he talked with Friese and his wife about the rigors of running a political campaign.
“Many of the people in the general population have no clue how much it takes up of your life,” Roe said. “It will impact your life, not only when you’re running for office, but if you do get elected.”
Friese said his family is ready for the campaign to begin, adding he never makes a decision without his wife.
He also still plans on dedicating some time to practicing medicine during his campaign, although, if elected, he said he would have to greatly reduce the time he could serve as a surgeon.
“It’s not a short-term commitment, it’s a long-term commitment,” Friese said, “and that’s why we want to get in it early — to tell people we’re in it for the long haul.”
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