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Roe, Olsen vie for seat in Congress

Nathan Baker • Nov 4, 2018 at 12:11 AM

Giving journalists a burning itch to make a terrible pun, the two major party candidates running for Tennessee’s 1st District seat in the U.S. House are a pair-a-docs.

Republican incumbent Dr. Phil Roe, an OB-GYN, is facing a challenge from Democrat Dr. Martin Olsen, an OB-GYN.

Both men said health care was a major issue for them in the run up to the Nov. 6 election, but they each proposed different policies to ensure 1st District residents have access to adequate, affordable health care.

Olsen, also a professor at East Tennessee State University, said he was inspired to run for Congress by the debate over repealing the Affordable Care Act after Republicans won control over both the legislative and executive branches in 2016. Olsen said he believes citizens of the United States will eventually be covered by a single-payer system, and said such a system could be achieved by a gradual expansion of Medicaid.

Roe, however, has long opposed the Obama-era health care reform legislation, and voted to eliminate pieces of the law before and after the 2016 election. The five-term incumbent said he believes the country’s high cost of health care and access problems can be solved in part by allowing health insurance to be sold across state lines and providing federal grants for states to expand access to public-run insurance systems.

Roe attributed the country’s surging economy to Republican tax cuts enacted last year and said he hopes to get federal spending and debt under control by adding a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.

Olsen criticized the tax cuts, saying they help corporations more than individuals, and said what additional money there was in people’s paychecks was lost to inflation and negative effects related to new tariffs put on American exports.

Roe has championed his record as chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, saying his committee, despite the partisan bickering seen elsewhere in Congress, has sent nearly two dozen bills to the president. If re-elected, Roe said he would continue to work to improve health care and services for veterans.

Olsen said education would be one of his top focuses should he be elected, and said strengthening the country’s public education system would be a priority. He said he opposes a voucher system that would allow federal dollars to be used for private and charter schools.

Should Olsen be elected, he would be the first Democrat to hold the seat in more than 100 years.

Polls open Tuesday, Nov. 6 at 8 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. You can find your polling location on your voter registration card.

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