Steve Holder, an independent candidate for Tennessee’s 1st District seat in Congress, says his campaign is definitely not politics as usual.
“I’d like to see people take my candidacy seriously, even though I don’t have a lot of money to spend,” the Johnson City resident told the Press last week.
Holder said he doesn’t have millions to pump into the race like one of his opponents, Republican nominee Diana Harshbarger, who reportedly spent more than $1.3 million of her own money to win a contested primary in August.
He faces Harshbarger and Democratic candidate Blair Walsingham in the Nov. 3 election to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-Johnson City.
Holder describes himself as leaning “mostly liberal,” noting that he is also a staunch supporter of the Second Amendment who strongly opposes abortion. As such, he said he doesn’t feel comfortable running for public office as either a Democrat or a Republican.
He has raised less than $100 for his campaign, and said he doesn’t plan to spend any more than that on the race. Holder said he is conducting his campaign mostly by word of mouth and on social media.
The independent candidate said his campaign hopes to answer the question: “Is there any integrity left out there, or has politics become all about the money?”
Holder said the congressional race is his entry into politics. He said government should be as he learned in school — for the people and by the people.
“Our country is in a mess, and it needs someone like me in Congress who is not a millionaire or a billionaire,” he said.
He said he was born in Kingsport, but grew up in Johnson City. After two years in the Army, Holder said he earned a bachelor’s degree from Milligan College and received a doctorate in ministry from the Spirit of Truth Institute.
Holder said his campaign platform focuses on three basic issues: addressing systemic racism, passing tougher penalties for human trafficking and ending poverty.
“Racism is a serious thing,” Holder said. “I support peaceful protest, but I do not support rioting and looting.”
Holder said while it is not realistic to totally defund police departments, he does believe the money now going to militarize law enforcement agencies would be better spent on social programs to address poverty.
He also said “free college is a good idea,” and he would work “to make education more accessible” to all residents of the 1st District.
That includes supporting grants for small businesses to “train and hire” the employees they need.
If elected in November, Holder has promised to donate 90% of his $174,000 annual congressional salary to charity.
“I hope to have an opportunity to do that,” he said.