1st Congressional District

Air war intensifies as 1st District race concludes

The free-for-all in the GOP primary to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Phil Roe (R-Johnson City) in the 1st Congressional District is reaching its final hours.

A poll commissioned by WJHL-TV indicates a tight race. The survey conducted by Spry Strategies has the race as:

  • Rusty Crowe: 16.1%
  • Diana Harshbarger: 15.8%
  • Josh Gapp: 11.7%
  • Timothy Hill: 10.4%
  • Steve Darden: 9.3%
  • John Clark: 8.9%
  • David Hawk: 6%

The poll of 665 likely voters has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

The Club for Growth has been advertising heavily in support of state Rep. Timothy Hill of Blountville while also attacking Kingsport pharmacist Diana Harshbarger, state Sen. Rusty Crowe of Johnson City, and Knoxville dermatologist Josh Gapp. A Club for Growth poll had Hill leading the race, with Harshbarger and Crowe within the margin of error.

Harshbarger has her own ads out attacking Hill, Crowe and former mayors Clark of Kingsport and Darden of Johnson City.

“I try to love all God’s creatures, but I’m sorry, I just hate snakes,” Harshbarger says in one ad. “And if you release a snake in the swamp, it’s never coming back.”

Crowe has his own spots out, highlighting his affable nature as a contrast to the attacks going on all around him.

“As a veteran, I know when you’re taking fire you’re over the target,” Crowe says in the spot. “And the Washington, D.C., swamp is firing on me.”

“Ignore the attacks and join my fight to give D.C. a good ole’ dose of Tennessee,” he says.

Gapp, who lives outside the district boundaries, has poured $1.2 million of his own money into his bid. His ad includes images of the candidate wandering through a set tipping over a Planned Parenthood sign, wielding an AR-15 rifle, and pledging to let Nancy Pelosi know that “in Tennessee we celebrate Easter, Christmas, our flag, our national anthem, and we always will.”

Big outside money flows into Senate, 1st District races

While Bill Hagerty’s and Manny Sethi’s campaigns slog it out against each other, a series of outside committees are also spending heavily in hopes of influencing the outcome of the Republican U.S. Senate primary.

The biggest player among them has been the Protect Freedom PAC, a group linked to U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who has endorsed Sethi. The PAC has spent $1.47 million on ads backing the Sethi. Another group called Conservative Outsiders’ PAC has spent $1 million attacking Hagerty.

Meanwhile, a super PAC called Standing with Conservatives has poured $1.3 million into the race, nearly all of it to oppose Sethi. U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton’s America One PAC has spent another $375,000 to oppose Sethi. The Arkansas Republican is backing Hagerty.

The primary to decide the Republican nomination to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Phil Roe (R-Johnson City) is also experiencing heavy independent expenditures. The Club for Growth, which has endorsed state Rep. Timothy Hill (R-Blountville), has spent $945,000 so far. About $425,000 has gone toward ads supporting Hill, while the rest has gone toward attacking GOP rivals Diana Harshbarger ($366,000), Rusty Crowe ($132,000), and Josh Gapp ($22,164).

The House Freedom Fund has kicked in $16,000 to support Hill and the delightfully named Bless Your Heart Coalition has spent $15,000 to oppose Harshbarger.

Club for Growth ad targets Harshbarger in 1st District

The Club for Growth is out with an ad targeting 1st Congressional District candidate Diana Harshbarger for her own spot demanding medical manufacturing to be brought back from China when her own husband pleaded guilty to mislabeling drugs from that country.

The Club for Growth has said it will spend more than half a million dollars in support of rival Republican candidate Timothy Hill, a state representative from Blountville.

“Harshbarger was the officer of a company busted for selling counterfeit Chinese drugs to treat American dialysis patients, claiming the drugs were American-made and approved,” the narrator says. “Used on innocent veterans and Medicare patients, Harshbarger’s company charged taxpayers full price for cut-rate Chinese drugs. Dishonest Diana Harshbarger, wrong for Congress.”

Former Kingsport Mayor John Clark, another candidate among the 16 Republicans running for the seat, is out with a new ad pledging to stand with President Donald Trump against the “cancel culture.”

Hill launches first TV ad of congressional bid

State Rep. Timothy Hill (R-Blountville) has launched his first TV ad of his bid for the Republican nomination to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Phil Roe.

According to Hill’s campaign, the ad “touts Hill’s record of being a Christian conservative fighter with a pro-life, pro-gun, pro-Trump record, and highlights the fact that Hill was personally invited to the White House by President Trump earlier this year due to his strong support for the Trump agenda.

Sixteen candidates are seeking the GOP nomination in the heavily Republican district. Other candidates include former Kingsport Mayor John Clark, state Sen. Rusty Crowe of Johnson City, former Johnson City Mayor Steve Darden, Kingsport pharmacist Diana Harshbarger, and state Rep. David Hawk of Greeneville.

Harshbarger has been running ads through her self-funded campaign and Clark recently got on the airwaves as well.

Candidate blasting China for COVID-19 married to man convicted of mislabeling drugs … from China

Kingsport pharmacist Diana Harshbarger has been making a splash in Tennessee’s open 1st Congress District race by self-funding a series of television commercials. One of her latest spots attacks China for the coronavirus pandemic.

“President Trump is right,” she says in the ad. “Let’s put America first by holding China accountable, controlling our borders, and bringing medical manufacturing back to America.”

Left unsaid is that Harshbarger’s husband pleaded guilty to federal charges of distributing misbranded drugs from China in 2013.

As the Kingsport Times-News reported at the time, Bob Harshbarger acknowledged misbranding iron sucrose purchased from China as the kidney dialysis drug Venofer. Prosecutors said he bought the non-FDA approved substances from China because they were cheaper than the brand-name drug.

Bob and Diana Harshbarger owned companies sharing the same Kingsport address, and she took over as the registered agent for his American Inhalation Medication Specialists Inc. after he was sentenced to four years in prison. The company was dissolved in 2018.

House Freedom Caucus endorses Hill in 1st District

Rep. Timothy Hill (R-Blountville) confers with House Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) March 29, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The House Freedom Caucus is endorsing and raising money for Timothy Hill bid for the Republican nomination to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Phil Roe (R-Johnson City) in the 1st District.

Here’s what the House Freedom Fund had to say about Hill, who is giving up his state House seat to run for Congress:

Timothy is a small business owner with a proven record of fighting for lower taxes, less spending, the 2nd Amendment, and the sanctity of life.

He is the conservative choice in this race who will stand proudly with President Trump and fight the liberal policies promoted by Nancy Pelosi.

This election is in a very strong Republican district so the August 6 primary will determine who wins this seat in November. Please help push this principled leader on to victory.

Hill is one of 16 Republicans running for the seat, including state Kingsport Mayor John Clark, Sen. Rusty Crowe of Johnson City , former Johnson City Mayor Steve Darden, Kingsport pharmacist Diana Harshbarger, and state Rep. David Hawk of Greeneville.

Harshbarger has been the biggest spender so far, dropping most of her $231,500 in expenditures on TV ads.

Clark has announced he wouldn’t seek more than three terms in Congress.

“I’m not a career politician, and as Mayor of Kingsport, I limited myself to two terms in office because I didn’t believe it was a job for one person forever,”  Clark said in a release. “I feel the same about Congress. Our Founding Fathers wanted Washington, D.C. to be a place that public servants visited for a brief period of time, did the people’s work, and went back home to live under the laws they had made. I hope by signing the term limits pledge I can encourage others, including my opponents, to take the same approach.”

Timothy Hill running for Congress in 1st District

Rep. Timothy Hill (R-Blountville) confers with House Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) March 29, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

State Rep. Timothy Hill of Blountville is running for the congressional seat being vacated by retiring U.S. Rep. Phil Roe (R-Johnson City).

Hill joins a field of Republican candidates that includes former Kingsport Mayor John Clark, state Sen. Rusty Crowe of Johnson City,  former Johnson City Mayor Steve Darden, and Kingsport pharmacist Diana Harshbarger.

Here’s the release from the Hill campaign:

BLOUNTVILLE, Tenn. — State Representative Timothy Hill today announced that he will be a candidate for Congress in Tennessee’s 1st district. Hill released the following statement:

“This district is strongly Republican, but it is critical that our nominee also be a proven conservative who will be a stalwart ally of President Trump against radicals like Nancy Pelosi and AOC. When it comes to supporting our conservative values my record is second to none- I’ve been a leading voice in Tennessee for the unborn, for our second amendment rights, and against tax hikes. As your member of Congress I’ll continue the fight for those same values, put people first, and I’ll support President Trump’s agenda 100%, especially the fight to build the wall and recover quickly from the Chinese Coronavirus.”

Hill has represented Johnson County and parts of Carter and Sullivan County since 2012. He currently serves as chairman of the House Commerce Committee and previously served in leadership as House Majority Whip. Representative Hill has been recognized by a number of conservative organizations for his leadership including a ranking of 3rd Most Conservative Legislator out of 132 members by the Club for Growth and the highest recognition for Conservative Excellence by the American Conservative Union.

To guide his campaign, Hill has hired Mike Lukach who served as a state director for President Trump’s 2016 campaign and later served in his administration.

Timothy Hill is a small business owner and dedicated family man. Timothy is a 7th generation East Tennessean, and he reside in Blountville with his wife Charity their two sons and their bulldog Winston.

The long hello: Crowe officially joins 1st District congressional race

Sen. Rusty Crowe (R-Johnson City), right, confers with colleagues as they await Gov. Bill Lee arrival for his second State of the State address in Nashville on Feb. 3, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

State Sen. Rusty Crowe has officially announced his candidacy for the 1st District Seat being vacated by the retirement of U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, a fellow Johnson City Republican.

Here’s the release from the Crowe campaign:

Jonesborough — State Senator Rusty Crowe (R) picked up his petition to officially join the race to represent Tennessee’s open First Congressional District seat Thursday. U.S. Representative Phil Roe (R) announced in January he will retire rather than seek a seventh term. 

Crowe said he is running for Congress “because Tennessee’s on the right track and D.C. needs a good dose of Tennessee.”

“I’ve spent my life serving Tennesseans as a volunteer for the Vietnam War and then as a citizen legislator in the Tennessee Senate,” Crowe said. “Today, Tennessee is thriving because we’ve applied common-sense conservative principles to achieve extraordinary results.”

Crowe noted Tennessee is now the top state for fiscal stability with the lowest debt as a percentage of personal income and leads the nation in business climate, advanced industry jobs, and small business growth.

“It Matters Who Governs,’ and it matters how Republicans govern when they get the chance,” Crowe continued.

“In Tennessee, we’ve done exactly what we campaigned on, but the last time Republicans controlled Congress, they broke their promises to the voters, especially regarding federal spending, Obamacare, and border security and immigration. Sometimes you have to hold your own party to its principles. When a Republican governor tried to impose an unconstitutional, job-killing state income tax on Tennesseans, my decisive opposition was what stopped it dead in its tracks once and for all.”

“The current Speaker of the House and her socialist colleagues want to fundamentally transform our nation into something our Founders never intended and obstruct President Trump’s ‘America First’ agenda,” Crowe said. 

“With the House and the Senate so completely polarized, President Trump under relentless partisan attack, and a socialist likely to be leading the other party in the general election, D.C. has never needed a good dose of Tennessee as badly as it does right now,” Crowe concluded. 

“That’s why I’m officially running for Congress. It’s about personally serving the people of Northeast Tennessee, supporting our president, and protecting our fundamental constitutional rights.”

Crowe will appear on the August 6, 2020 GOP primary ballot to serve as the Republican nominee for the First Congressional District.

 

Former Kingsport Mayor Clark announces congressional bid in 1st District

John Clark (Photo credit: Clark campaign)

Former Kingsport Mayor John Clark has filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission to start raising money for his bid to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Phil Roe (R-Johnson City). Clark’s announcement comes amid decisions by state Rep. Jeremy Faison (R-Cosby) and state Sen. Jon Lundberg (R-Bristol) against running for the seat.

Clark told WJHL-TV on Monday that his decision to run for the seat wasn’t contingent on Roe retiring.

“I was going to move forward regardless,” he said. “But as it turns out Congressman Roe made it his announcement and the timing couldn’t be better.”

Here’s the full release from the Clark campaign:

Kingsport, Tenn.— Former Kingsport Mayor John Clark announced today his candidacy for Tennessee’s 1st District congressional seat. Clark has filed the required Federal Election Commission documents needed to compete in the August 2020 Republican primary election.

Clark served on Kingsport’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen (BMA) for seven years, three years as alderman and four as mayor. His term ended in July 2019. “During my time on the BMA, we worked with many community and business leaders to improve the quality of life for all residents, thereby ensuring a prosperous future for our city. We achieved a lot on both fronts and I’m very excited to do the same for the 1st District,” said Clark.

Clark said he is running for congress because, “I have a passion for public service. Making a positive difference in the lives of my fellow Northeast Tennesseans truly energizes me. My focus is on conservative Republican values with a special emphasis on jobs, healthcare, and expanded opportunities for veterans and farmers. I will be a strong voice in support of President Trump’s policies and will fight against big government and for expanded freedoms for all Americans.” 

Clark is a man of faith and a dedicated family man, businessman, and public servant. After a 36-year career in business, Clark said, “Community service is the most personally rewarding experience of my life. Working with people to improve the lives of others is a passion of mine. I would be honored to serve the people of the 1st District and am committed to giving my all to the residents of our region.”

Clark is excited to begin this campaign, which will be his fourth but first full-time campaign. His family, particularly his wife Etta, will be very involved in his campaign. Clark said, “I look forward to having my family and friends actively participate and experience this opportunity with me. I am ready to work hard over the next eight months to meet as many voters as possible throughout the 1st District. I’m all-in for the 1st District. We can do more and we can do better for our residents and businesses. I have the experience, passion, and energy to bring more high paying jobs to our citizens and ensure our freedoms are protected.”

Lundberg out of 1st District race, Crowe in?

State Sen. Jon Lundberg (R-Bristol) is the latest sitting lawmaker to bow out of the running for the 1st Congressional District seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Phil Roe (R-Johnson City).

I have been greatly humbled by the visits, phone calls, texts, messages and words of encouragement to run for congress. …

Posted by Jon Lundberg on Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Lundberg’s decision follows an announcement by state House Republican Caucus Chairman Jeremy Faison of Cosby that he won’t run for the seat.

Meanwhile, WJHL-TV reports fellow state Sen. Rusty Crowe (R-Johnson City) said he is now considering a bid after receiving several calls encouraging him to run.

“I believe I’ve helped improve the state of Tennessee for 30 years, and would be interested in the opportunity to work on the federal level and represent the district,” Crowe said.

Crowe, 72, wouldn’t have to give up his seat in the state Senate to run because his four-year term isn’t up until 2022. Lundberg wouldn’t have had that same luxury, as his seat is up for reelection this year.

The Tennessean reported last week  that former Kingsport Mayor John Clark has announced he will run. Former state Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, former House Minority Leader Jason Mumpower, and former Safety Commissioner David Purkey said they won’t make a bid.