Why Should Someone Who Voted Republican in the Past Vote for Marty Olsen?

As I’ve mentioned many times, I’ll need significant bi-partisan support to win the election against incumbent Congressman Phil Roe next week. But why should East Tennesseans who have voted for Republican candidates in the past break that habit and cast their ballot for Responsible Change?

Let me start by saying that my answer is based on people, not party. Over the last year, I have had instructive conversations with voters who in the past identified with all kinds of political labels—Republicans, Democrats, Independents—as well as some who didn’t identify with any political group. I have learned how party stereotypes don’t necessarily match up with what people say they really need and want. As one result of these conversations, I have earned many Republican donors and supporters. Here are a few of the reasons why.

TERM LIMITS—Many Americans in 2016 voted to Drain the Swamp. That’s a good idea, and voter enforcement of term limit promises is part of how we get it done. You can’t drain the swamp if you keep sending the same swamp critters back to Washington. So it makes sense that not just Republicans but most Tennesseans strongly believe in term limits. Up until this year, Congressman Roe did too. As he stated when he was first elected on the basis of his own term-limit promise: “…if we had had term limits, we wouldn’t be in the economic mess we’re in now…” When elected, I’ll keep the promise Phil Roe broke and serve only five terms or less.

FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY—Phil Roe spoke and voted against national budget deficits when a Democratic President was in office. But, as soon as a Republican President came into office, the Congressman turned around and recklessly voted for them. I understand that budget deficits must be part of the government’s economic toolkit, and I can accept the need for deficits in a time of war or national emergency. But when it comes to massive deficit increases just to give a tax cut to corporations and the wealthy—well, I’m against that kind of budget deficit, period. Our government has been put on sale to billionaires and corporate donors. Congress caters to these special interests instead of the people’s best interests. We can design a fair tax structure so that everyone pulls his or her own weight. We can address government waste as an excellent start to ending the growth of the deficit. And we should not be throwing public money at multi-billion dollar no-bid contracts like the sweetheart deal for a new Veterans Administration electronic health record system that Congressman Roe approved for his donor, the Cerner Corporation.

THE OPIOID EPIDEMIC—East Tennessee is one of the worst-afflicted areas in the country. As I discussed last week, we are missing opportunities to address it. The educational and economic impacts already affect all of us—Republicans, Independents, and Democrats—and will continue to do so for decades. I’m a physician who has helped patients end their opioid addictions, and I know we can have success in fighting addiction. While some legislative action has occurred lately, I always try to look at such events through the eyes of my patients. I ask, “Will this make my patient’s life better?” I haven’t seen anything recently that passes that test.

In Dr. Roe’s case, there is a conflict of interest from more than $100,000 in donations he and his PAC have received over the years from the pharmaceutical industry, as well as his personal investments in drug company stocks. This kind of conflict helps me understand his failure to stand up to Big Pharma and hold corporations accountable for their part in the opiate crisis. As he said himself in 2008, “…when someone gives politicians money, they’re going to expect something from it.”

In sum, I’ve spent the past year talking to folks all over Tennessee District 1, and I have been impressed by how many people are just tired of partisan gridlock that helps nobody. People want to cut through the noise and have frank and cordial dialogue about what really matters. I have enjoyed walking up to the Republican tent or booth at a county fair or local festival and engaging in conversations about the future of our country—not to argue or to preach, but to listen and search for common ground. To move forward, we need to work on practical things we can agree about instead of trying to score political points against each other. Political “points” don’t help the sick, don’t educate children, don’t provide secure jobs and retirements, and don’t build roads, bridges, or high-speed internet connections. When I’m in Congress, I intend to be the type of representative who searches for agreement and who gets behind the best ideas, no matter who happens to come up with them first.

If you’ve already voted for me or plan to vote for me, I thank you for your support. Please also send this post to your friends, relatives, acquaintances, and neighbors. And, yes, of course, that includes those who happen to have voted Independent or Republican in the past.

And if you haven’t already voted, make sure you do.