diana harshbarger

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.”