Will Roe actually call it quits? Local leaders deny interest in congressional seat

Zach Vance • Feb 6, 2018 at 10:44 PM

The rumor mill is beginning to churn, as speculation swirls in the nation’s capital whether U.S. Rep. Phil Roe will run for a sixth term or not.

A report Monday on RollCall.com said the congressman for Tennessee’s 1st District remains undecided about reelection in 2018, claiming he would decide in the “next week or so.”

Roe, a retired OB-GYN doctor, might be struggling with the decision as he told local reporters in early January that he would make a decision within the next week to 10 days, but that announcement has yet to come.

When asked last week, a spokesman for Roe declined to elaborate on his decision-making and only referred to his comments about deciding within the week.

Several local leaders were mentioned in the Washington, D.C., report as possible challengers to Roe’s seat, including state Rep. Timothy Hill, state Rep. David Hawk and Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge.

In a text message to the Johnson City Press, Hawk said he hoped Roe would decide to run again, “for at least another two-year term.”

“I am honored to have my name associated with individuals considering a potential run for Congress, should Dr. Roe decide not to run for reelection. At this point in time, my 16 years of service in Nashville have allowed me to rise to be one of the most senior members in the Tennessee General Assembly,” Hawk, the assistant majority leader, said.

“I currently have a desire to rise to an even greater position of influence in our state legislature, later this year, and look forward to making that announcement soon. If I am not successful in that endeavor, I will certainly look more closely at a potential run for Congress in the future.”

Although Eldridge was on vacation outside the county, he also replied via text message, once again declining interest in another public office after announcing he would not seek reelection as mayor in October.

“While I’m very interested in working to solve the economic and demographic challenges facing our region, I’m not sure a congressional seat is the place where I can be most effective. I really hope Congressman Roe will serve one more term,” said Eldridge.

Hill, who serves as House majority whip, did not decline interest in Roe’s seat, but said he is currently focused on “serving the men, women and families of our community.”

“I have tremendous respect for Congressman Roe, and it is an honor to be mentioned as a potential candidate for the first congressional district seat,” Hill said.

“Our state has experienced remarkable success under conservative Republican leadership over the last several years, and I’m excited about our work ahead in order to ensure that Northeast Tennessee continues to thrive.”

Dallas Cowboys’ tight end Jason Witten’s name was also mentioned, but he already told CBSSports.com he would return to the NFL next year.

Last year, Roe was diagnosed with early-stage prostate cancer and reported having a successful surgery.

Speaking to reporters in late January, Roe said in three to four weeks he would have a blood test and its results might factor into his decision to run for reelection.

“Those things will impact the decision you make. So far, I’ve gotten great results. Physically, I’m feeling better,” Roe said.

Roe reportedly told RollCall.com that if he opted against running, it would be because of family considerations. Last year, Roe married Clarinda Jeanes, who had previously been married to the late Milligan College President Don Jeanes.

In March 2015, Roe’s wife of 19 years, Pam, died of complications from stage IV colon cancer.

As chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, if Roe did step down, he would be the tenth Republican committee head to leave the House in 2018.

Newcomer Todd McKinley, a retired military veteran of 20 years and a Kingsport native, has already announced he would contend for the 1st Congressional district’s Republican nomination. Democrat Marty Olsen is another candidate who has already committed to running for Roe’s seat.

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