club for growth

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.”

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.”

Club for Growth launches website targeting Haslam

Gov. Bill Haslam gives his farewell address before the inauguration ceremony for Gov. Bill Lee in Nashville on Jan. 19, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The Club for Growth, a conservative Super PAC, is taking aim at former Gov. Bill Haslam’s potential candidacy for the U.S. Senate. The Knoxville Republican is expected to make a decision about whether to run this spring.

The group has expressed support for U.S. Rep. Mark Green (R-Ashland City) to jump into the race to succeed Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Maryville) next year. Club for Growth agitated on Republican Marsha Blackburn’s behalf in her successful bid for the Senate last year.

“Deciding to run for the United States Senate would be different than deciding if I am going to go work for this bank or that insurance company or whatever,” Haslam said a Freed-Hardeman University forum last week.  “At the end of the day, for all of us, it’s about where can we be the most useful. Where can our gifts and the world’s needs intersect.”

The Club for Growth ad and the related DirtyBillHaslam.com website take aim over the scandal at the Pilot Flying J truck stop chain controlled by the former governor and his family.

“Governor, don’t run,” Club for Growth Action President David McIntosh said in a release. “You have a legacy as governor and clearly don’t have the fire in the belly nor desire to serve in the U.S. Senate.”