Roe defeats McKinley, setting up November showdown with Democrat Olsen

Zach Vance • Updated Aug 2, 2018 at 11:43 PM

Johnson City Republican Phil Roe moved a step closer Thursday to being elected to his sixth term in the U.S. House of Representatives, but first he will have to get past Democrat Marty Olsen in November. 

Roe survived a challenge from Kingsport native Todd McKinley, an Army veteran, by garnering 73.74 percent of the vote compared to McKinley’s 16 percent. Former Johnson City Press reporter James Brooks placed third with 5 percent in the Republican Primary, while Mickie Lou Banyas captured 4 percent of the vote.

“It is gratifying (to win), but it’s so very humbling,” Roe said at a victory celebration at the Carnegie Hotel Thursday night. “I know in the world we see today, and the news we see nationally about Washington, D.C., I can’t thank the people here enough for the support they’ve given me. I truly don’t know of anybody in the country who has more support than I do.” 

Olsen, who decided to run for Congress after lawmakers attempted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, ran unopposed in Thursday’s Democratic primary, gathering 13,275 votes.

“Thank you for the support of people across the ideological and geographical spectrums,” Olsen said in a victory email to his supporters.

“I have faith in my supporters and the people who seek responsible change. The road to victory is a quick three months away, but if those months are anything like I know, like I have seen leading up to this day, we can do this. We can move our district forward with the help of old and new supporters.”

Roe, a former Johnson City mayor, waited until February to announce his intent to run for re-election after overcoming a prostate cancer diagnosis in August 2017. 

Roe’s election to a sixth term contradicts a 2008 pledge he made to constituents to serve only five terms if he was sent to Congress, but if re-elected, he has pledged to continue the work he started on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, on which he serves as chairman.  

Some of that work includes ensuring the legislation recently passed by his committee is property implemented. 

Some of Roe’s recent accomplishments in Congress include the passage of the “Forever” G.I. bill that expands educational benefits to veterans and the VA MISSION Act that is expected to streamline veterans’ access to non-VA care.  

“I have a lot of uncompleted work with VA. We just started our transformation with the VA and it’s going to be a long-term process,” Roe said. “So we’ve got a number of bills I want to work on. One is the implementation of the electronic health records. These are not the glitzy things that make national news, but it’s critically important to the health at the VA.”

In the last 18 months, Roe said his Veterans Committee has passed more than 70 bills through the full U.S. House of Representatives, including nine last week. Roe has said 26 of those bills have already been signed by President Donald Trump, while the others await Senate approval.  

McKinley, 40, served 20 years in the military where he spent 11 years as a senior noncommissioned officer. During his tenure, McKinley worked in the White House Communications Agency during the President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama administrations. Last week, McKinley said if he lost he wouldn’t rule out a future run at Congress again. 

Olsen and Roe will face off in the Nov. 6 election. 




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