KINGSPORT — Speaking to a wall-to-wall, standing-room-only crowd of enthusiastic supporters at a Braeden’s Barbecue, former Kingsport Mayor John Clark last week announced his candidacy for Tennessee’s 1st District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
“I am very, very passionate about our region,” Clark told those gathered for the Jan. 7, 2020 announcement, including a number of Hawkins County residents, describing himself as a “true conservative Republican”.
“I am all in for the First District!” he said to a round of applause and cheers from those in attendance.
Clark served on Kingsport’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen for seven years — three years as alderman and four as mayor. His term as mayor ended in July 2019.
He describes himself as a man of faith, a family man, businessman, and public servant.
In his roles as an elected official, Clark said he made economic growth and prosperity top priorities.
“We did that by connecting people with the resources they need to be successful, healthy and happy,” he said. “As your next Congressman, I will extend that vision across the First District. I will focus on job creation, I will fight for preserving the freedoms of our Constitution, and promote strong family values. I’m going to do that through working real hard to improve the quality of life for everyone and to ensure a prosperous future for our region.”
Clark explained that, what he means by “quality of life” is a focus on two main areas — jobs and healthcare.
“On the job front, I think there is opportunity to do more and to do better, when it comes to recruiting businesses with high-paying jobs to our district, and to help our existing major industries grow and prosper,” he said. “How we do that is by filling their pipeline with a skilled workforce.”
A third-prong of the job focus, he said, will be to help entrepreneurs who are trying to establish successful small businesses.
“I think we have all of the pieces in play in the region to make that happen,” he said.
In terms of healthcare, Clark said that hospitals must have dependable revenue.
“We want our hospitals to stay open,” he said. “We are blessed to have excellent healthcare in our district, fantastic doctors and nurses.”
Accessibility to healthcare is also vital for local residents, he said.
Clark said that working to stem the opioid epidemic in Northeast Tennessee will also be a priority.
“Judges are telling me they are seeing a resurgence in heroin and methamphetamine in our area,” he said.
Issues related to mental health are also high on his list of priorities, Clark said.
A number of family members were present for the announcement, including his wife, Etta, who joined him at the podium, and whom he said would be actively involved in the campaign.
“This district is very unique and has a lot of potential,” Clark said. “I want to help in any way I can to continue to move it forward.”
Clark said he made the decision to run after much consideration and soul-searching, and that, if elected to Congress, he will be a “strong voice in support of President Trump’s policies and will fight against big government and for expanded freedoms for all Americans”.
He praised the leadership of current 1st District Congressman Dr. Phil Roe who recently announced that he is retiring at the end of his current, seventh two-year term, which ends in January, 2021.
A retired Johnson City medical doctor, Republican Roe is a veteran of the U.S. Army and is a former mayor and vice mayor of Johnson City.
The district is composed of 12 counties … Carter, Cocke, Greene, Hamblen, Hancock, Hawkins, Jefferson, Johnson, Sevier, Sullivan, Unicoi and Washington, with a total population of 720,358.
In the last election (November, 2018), more than 224,200 ballots were cast. Roe handily defeated all others, receiving more than 172,800 votes. Democratic candidate Marty Olsen received 47,138 votes, while independent Michael D. Salyer received 4,309.
Clark will be a candidate on the Aug. 6, 2020, Republican Party primary ballot.
A Democrat has not held the office since Reconstruction.
Candidates have until noon on April 2 to file their nominating petitions with the office of the State Election Commission.
Primary winners for each party will then appear on Nov. 3 general election ballots along with Presidential candidates and those running for other seats in Tennessee’s General Election.
Readers can learn more about the candidate at his website, www.johnclarkforcongress.com.
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