“I have taken a no Pelosi pledge, and I took it a year ago,” Olsen said in a phone interview.
Olsen, a Johnson City physician, is up against incumbent GOP U.S. Rep. Phil Roe in a Northeast Tennessee district that hasn’t elected a Democrat since Reconstruction.
Roe, a retired physician and current chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, has outraised and outspent Olsen by about a 4-to-1 margin, according to campaign finance filings with the Federal Election Commission.
Olsen addressed these questions:
Why are you running to defeat Roe?
“It was health care that pushed me over the edge … Congressman Roe voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and that would have placed about 60,000 East Tennesseans off of insurance plans … I think where our country is headed no matter who wins we’ll eventually have a Medicare expansion … there’s no voter out there who has ever said ‘Take away my Medicare.’”
What can you do for the district that Roe can’t?
“I think the biggest thing is the opioid addiction … I’ve taken care of pregnant addicted patients. I tried to keep their doses so their babies are less likely to be addicted … With this frontline view of the opioid crisis, I think I can do things that haven’t been done … the opioid crisis, I would say, is his biggest failure … he has taken lots of money from the pharmaceutical industry … I don’t think he has the fire in his belly to really confront it.”
I looked at your campaign account and saw you were getting no support from the Tennessee Democratic Party. Anything you want to say about that?
“They’ve made a decision to support Governor Bredesen (who is running against Republican Marsha Blackburn for the U.S. Senate), and that’s their decision. I’m really proud of the fact this is an East Tennessee movement. Who do I have to respond to when I’m in Congress? I owe nobody else anything … as a voter outreach, this is who I report to.”
What are you gleaning from the huge turnout in early voting?
“I’m actually very pleased there is all this interest in this campaign. Tennessee has been number 50 in voter turnout, and maybe we’re not going to be number 50 anymore. I’m excited to see so many people interested in participating in the process.”