Dr. Ernie Ward enters politics, state senate race
It would be too easy to say Ernie Ward, DVM, entered the primary race for state Senate in North Carolina’s Eighth District over puppy mill legislation. Although his decision to run this year was motivated by the issue—even provoked by the district’s Republican incumbent, Bill Rabon, also a DVM, who opposed the recent bill to regulate commercial dog breeding. “The senator directly challenged me to put my butt on the line if I wanted a change,” Ward says. “That was just the prodding I needed.”
Ward says his passion for animal welfare simply catalyzed his passion for other issues. “If it was just about puppy mills I’d continue to advocate for animal welfare like I always have, but it’s about more than that,” Ward says. Mainly, the state of public schools, jobs and the environment: “These are things that I’m passionate about.”
The first-time political candidate has been a practicing veterinarian and clinic owner for more than 20 years. He’s a longtime speaker, author and lecturer in the realm of veterinary medicine, appearing on television and magazines, and branding himself “America’s Pet Advocate.” Ward says he’s been fortunate to have experiences in his veterinary career that directly translate to politics.
“It’s an interesting transition from the world of veterinary medicine to the political world,” Ward says. He likens talking to potential constituents about issues that concern them to conversations with clients about the pets they care so much about. He says even though veterinary medicine is animal-focused, it, like politics, is a people profession.
Even with a primary election and a possibly contentious general election in his future, Ward says he has no plans to minimize his veterinary career. He says the same stands for if he wins the seat, as North Carolina works as a part-time legislature. “I will continue to be just as active in my profession but at the same time advocating for those in my district,” Ward says. “I have a strong allegiance to my profession. To enter into this other world, it’s been an education. It’s strengthened my resolve to help veterinarians.”
Ward believes experiencing the inner-workings of the political system will make him a more effective advocate for veterinarians. “I’m always looking at what could help my profession,” Ward says. “It will only make me more attuned to the issues and challenges of veterinary medicine.”
Ward will face former District 8 Senator Danny Hefner (who was defeated by Rabon in 2012) in the primary May 6. “I did not in my wildest dreams ever think I’d have to oppose another veterinarian in a political campaign,” Ward says. If he wins the Democratic ticket, he will face Rabon in the general election in November.