Democratic candidate and former Nashville mayor Karl Dean made one last stop to the Tri-Cities on Saturday afternoon at the Carter County courthouse. Welcomed by a crowd of supporters and Dr. Marty Olsen, who is running against incumbent U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, Dean hit on several points that drew applause and cheers from the crowd — prioritizing health care, education and jobs for the state.
In terms of health care, Dean said that expanding Medicaid, medical cannabis legalization and opioid addiction treatment are at the top of his list of goals for the state.
“We’re paying for Medicaid expansion in other states, but we’re not getting the benefits, that’s bad fiscal management,” he said after his speech. “We need to make sure our hospitals stay open, particularly rural hospitals, and we need to make sure the (more than) 300,000 people who will benefit from this program get access to insurance.”
Several polls, including one released by East Tennessee State University last week, show Dean trailing behind his opponent, Republican Bill Lee.
That doesn’t quell the aspirations of local Democrats, though, as they donned blue gloves for a “blue wave” following Dean’s speech on the stairs overlooking the parking lot of the courthouse.
“(This area) is a lot more blue than people think it is,” Carter County Democratic party chairwoman Kristi Carr said. “There are a lot more people that lean to the left than you would think. Not only that, we have swing voters that I met today, independent voters, that are very interested in the candidates we have running.”
Olsen maintained his optimism of challenging Roe — he’ll need conservative support at the polls to swipe the seat that’s been held by Roe for 10 years. Olsen said his support of term limits and fiscal responsibility may make him appealing to Republicans who may feel betrayed by their party.
“This is a place where, in my view, the Republican party has left many of the values of the average Republican voter,” Olsen said. “The Republican party has abandoned everyday Americans and started working toward whatever the party leadership says to do and taking care of billionaire donors.”
A wave of voters turned out to the polls early this year — more than 40,000 people cast their ballots early this year to add to a statewide surge of 1.2 million people at the polls this year.
It’s too early to tell how that might sway the election, but Carr said she’d noticed more activism and participation within local Democratic communities.
“We’re in very unsettled times,” Carr said. “Just in the past couple of weeks — bombs being sent in the mail, black people being killed, the Jewish people being killed in the synagogue.
“I think people understand that we are in very critical times here as a nation.”
Polls open at 8 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. on Tuesday. The precinct location where you can vote is printed on your voter registration card.
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