A total of nine congressional candidates took the stage Monday night in the International Lyceum at Walters State Community College, vying to replace U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-Johnson City, who decided not to run for reelection this year.
The majority of the candidates were Republicans with one Democrat on stage as the Republican Party has a crowded field of 16 candidates trying to win the nomination for the U.S. First Congressional District.
Republicans Chance Cansler, John Clark, Rusty Crowe, Steve Darden, David Hawk, Chuck Miller, Carter Quillen and Nichole Williams, along with Democrat Blair Walsingham attended the event that was sponsored by the Morristown Area Chamber of Commerce and video coverage of the event will be available at www.citizentribune.com.
Keith Andrews, chairman of the Chamber’s Legislative Relations Committee, moderated the event and questions were given to candidates prior to the event.
Andrews thanked all the candidates who were present for the event and acknowledged it was a different event this year.
“We’re doing our best to follow CDC guidelines,” he said.
All those in attendance were spaced out and a limited number of guests were allowed into the Lyceum. Candidates were also spaced out across the room.
Candidates who did not attend included Jay Adkins, Phil Arlinghaus, Richard Baker, Chad Fleenor, Robert Franklin, Josh Gapp, Diana Harshbarger and Timothy Hill.
The questions for candidates included topics such as healthcare, substance abuse, the economy, immigration and leadership.
State Rep. David Hawk, R-Greeneville, kicked off the event by talking about his experience in government and business.
“I’m ready to go day one,” Hawk said.
He spoke about how he had been a businessman for 20 years and a state legislator for 18 years. He said he knows how to work within the political spectrum and will work for the people of the First Congressional District of Tennessee.
“I show up” he said. “I answer questions. I’m not afraid of anyone or anything.”
He said one thing he would like to do is tackle healthcare. He would bring all healthcare providers and those who support the industry into one room and work out a compromise that would address the issue of rising costs.
Chance Cansler, a data analyst, said he is pro-Second Amendment and pro-life. His campaign platform centered on job creation and expanding the footprint of jobs.
He said he thought he could bring a new outlook for northeast Tennessee.
“Appalachia has been underserved for two centuries,” he said.
John Clark, former mayor of Kingsport, said he was a conservative Republican, a Christian and a family man. The candidate who was born in Cuba and legally became a citizen of the United States said he knows personally how communism and socialism can change a country. His parents fled Cuba as Fidel Castro came into power.
He said he sees some of the same things starting to occur in the U.S.
“I want to go to Washington and fight for our freedoms,” he said.
He said his time in business for over 40 years has helped prepare him for being the nominee.
“You’re talking to a manufacturing guy,” he said. “I’m a job creator.”
Carter Quillen talked about how he was a U.S. Coast Guard merchant captain and engineer. He said he is an outsider with a diverse background.
“I’m not a politician,” he said. “I’m an engineer.”
He said he has served the country for years and sees this as an opportunity to keep serving. He said he believes that local government can do a better job than federal government.
“I’m a state’s rights advocate,” he said.
The fifth candidate to speak, Chuck Miller, said he works at a factory and spoke about how the U.S. has a “broken system.”
For healthcare, he said he definitely sees the need for it to be fixed.
“I can tell you Obamacare is not the answer,” he said. “I’m a victim of Obama.”
He said at one point, he had Obamacare, but then after a life threatening event, his insurance dropped him.
“They saved my life to ruin me financially,” he said.
Steve Darden, former mayor of Johnson City and a labor attorney, said his first priorities are simple: getting the economy back on track and making sure his office has outstanding constituent service.
He said Hamblen County is leading the way for jobs within the region and other places could take notice.
“The other counties can benchmark off what you’re doing,” he said.
He said he knows how to handle the nuances of government after handling mediation cases involving labor union bosses.
“I can tell you right now, they make Schumer and Pelosi look like pussycats,” he said.
State Sen. Rusty Crowe, R-Johnson City, talked about his experience in state government. He said is a U.S. Army and Vietnam War veteran who thinks he can work with people in Washington.
He said there needs to be less regulation and a change of leadership for Democrats.
“Washington needs a good dose of Tennessee,” he said.
He said he believed there needed to be a “patient centered” healthcare program.
Democratic candidate Blair Walsingham talked about being a mother of four and a U.S. Air Force veteran.
She said she has seen too much poverty throughout the district and that people need more access to healthcare. She said there are people who cannot tie their healthcare to a job.
Walsingham also hinted that some of the talk in Washington right now by Republicans concerning current issues need to be toned down.
“We can fight culture wars all we want, but that is not going to put food on the table,” she said.
The last speaker of the night was Republican Nichole Williams, a self-described conservative constitutionalist libertarian.
Williams, who recently pleaded guilty to perjury for putting the wrong address on her paperwork to run for congress and is now on probation, said she wants to take a literal reading of the constitution. She said she supports banning abortion all together.
She also spoke about an earned path to U.S. citizenship where immigrants also would have to sign waivers to come into the country, and would also agree to pay part of their wages for 10 years to pay down the federal deficit.
Williams also told the audience that she believed the coronavirus was a hoax and propaganda perpetrated by the media. She said she believed in an “Accountable Media Amendment.”
“That would make them clean up their act,” she said.