Congressman Phil Roe easily claims third term

Gary B. Gray • Nov 6, 2012 at 10:56 PM

Incumbent U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-1st, eased into a third congressional term Tuesday with the help of a historically conservative Northeast Tennessee voting base.

The Clarksville native and former Johnson City mayor who has promised to serve only five terms in the U.S. House of Representatives outdid his Democratic rival, Gray’s Alan Woodruff, by an unofficial margin of roughly 80 percent to 20 percent.

Green Party candidate Robert Smith and independents Karen Sherry Brackett and Michael Salyer each received about 2 percent of the vote or less.

“It is very humbling to get the support I’ve gotten tonight,” Roe said late Tuesday night at the Carnegie Hotel in Johnson City. I just can’t say enough about the people in this district.”

With no Republican opposition in the August state primary and a district comprised of the GOP faithful waiting in the wings, it was clear that Roe need not extend himself to gain re-election. Republicans have held this seat continuously since 1881 and for all but four years since 1859, making the odds long for any challenger.

Tennessee’s 1st Congressional District is located in the northeastern portion of the state and includes Johnson, Carter, Sullivan, Washington, Unicoi, Greene, Hamblen, Hawkins, Hancock, Cocke, Sevier counties and a portion of Jefferson County.

“The issues remain the same, namely debt,” Roe added.

The website “Open Congress” tracks how often members of Congress vote with the majority of the chamber caucus. According to the website, Roe voted with the Republican Party 95.4 percent of the time, ranking him 27th among the 242 House Republican members in December 2011.

His 2012 financial report shows he took in a total of nearly $255,000 over the last three financial quarters, spending about $183,000 of that. As of Oct. 15, he had more than $495,000 on hand, according to the Federal Election Commission.

Roe’s base salary — what he is paid each year to serve as a member of the House — is $174,000 per year. His estimated total net worth in 2010 was an estimated $2.6 million, according to The Center for Responsive Politics.

The congressman prides himself on being a strong fiscal conservative, and he is a vocal critic of government waste. He also opposed the federal “bailouts” and he is a sponsor of the Balanced Budget Amendment.

“The thing that’s great about America is we can have a vote and have a peaceful transition,” Roe said. “I want to thank Mr. Woodruff. I appreciate him stepping up to the plate.”

David Phillip Roe (his full name) could be spotted at various fundraisers, appearances and chats, but he was very selective about debating Woodruff, who tried many times to arrange a dialectic dual. But it never happened.

On Oct. 8, the Johnson City/Washington County NAACP-sponsored a candidate forum. Roe, Woodruff, and Nancy Fischman, the Democratic candidate for the state’s 7th District House seat, attended the event. Though he tried to engage Roe, the event’s format did not allow Woodruff to do so.

Smith, Brackett and Salyer say they were not informed about the forum.

Woodruff, who holds several doctoral degrees and has had careers as a chemical engineer, management consultant and a tax and constitutional lawyer, said he has not decided whether he will make another run at the office. But he did comment on the lack of debate.

“I challenged him to debate — he promised to do that at one of his town hall meetings,” he said. “It makes me think his advisers talked him out of it.”

Roe defeated incumbent congressman David Davis in the 2008 primary by 500 votes, or a mere 1 percent of the vote. Davis blamed his loss on votes from Democrats who crossed over to vote for Roe in the open primary. Roe went on to defeat Democrat Rob Russell with 72 percent of the vote, snagging his first term.

He won re-election in 2010 with more than 80 percent of the vote against Democrat Michael Clark.

The three remaining candidates threw their hats in the ring knowing their chances of victory were slim.

Salyer, a truck driver, has said when you’re a candidate running outside the mainstream, people don’t take you seriously. He also has stated that it is not about how much money you have; it’s about how hard you plan to work.

Brackett, who ran unsuccessfully two years ago for what then was the state’s 5th House District seat, said she wanted to find alternatives to the Affordable Health Care Act and that it would burden people with higher costs.

Smith, a former Navy torpedo technician, called the “Ds” and “Rs” “gangs.” He also used prostitution to metaphorically describe the way the presidency, Congress, U.S. Supreme Court and Washington politics in general operate.

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