Rep. Phil Roe (R)
Elected: 2008, 1st term.
Born: July 21, 1945, Clarksville .
Home: Johnson City.
Education: Austin Peay St. U., B.S. 1967; U. of TN, M.D. 1970.
Family: Married (Pam); 3 children.
Military career: Army, 1973-74.
Elected office: Johnson City Commission, 2003-09, Vice mayor, 2005-07, Mayor, 2007-09.
Professional Career: Obstetrician/gynecologist, 1970-2008.
The new congressman from the 1st District is Phil Roe, a Republican elected in 2008. Roe grew up in Clarksville and attended a one-room schoolhouse with no running water. He went on to receive degrees from Austin Peay State University and a medical degree from the University of Tennessee. He served in the Army Medical Corps and then relocated to Johnson City, setting up practice as an obstetrician/gynecologist and delivering babies for 30 years. In 2003, the political bug bit Roe, and he ran successfully for the Johnson City Commission. Roe was chosen by commission members to be vice mayor in 2005 and mayor 2007. When five-term U.S. Rep. Bill Jenkins retired in 2006, Roe competed in a crowded GOP primary but finished fourth with 17% of the vote, behind health care business owner David Davis, who went on to win the seat in the general election.
|Phil Roe (R)||168,343||(72%)||($717,171)|
|Rob Russell (D)||57,525||(25%)||($10,354)|
|Phil Roe (R)||25,993||(50%)|
|David Davis (R)||25,511||(49%)|
In his first term in the House, Davis quickly gained a reputation as a combative partisan and was criticized in the local press for securing earmarks for companies with political action committees that contributed to his campaign. Roe decided to challenge Davis when he sought re-election in 2008, and embarked on a grass-roots campaign, personally visiting each county multiple times, talking to voters, stumping in restaurants and waving signs at busy intersections. In ads featuring an elderly grandmother trying to fill up her car with gas, Roe criticized Davis for accepting money from oil companies, attacks that resonated as gas prices spiked. Davis led in fundraising, pulling in $400,000 more than Roe and outspending his challenger 3-to-1. But two years after finishing fourth behind Davis in a crowded Republican field, Roe rebounded to narrowly upset the one-term Davis, becoming the first challenger in more than 40 years to defeat an incumbent representative in Tennessee.
Roe’s challenge to Davis was barely on the national radar, and his win surprised Davis as well, leading to one of the more unusual escapades of the congressional election season. As vote tallies trickled in from precincts across the rural eastern Tennessee district, Davis refused to emerge from his hotel room to greet supporters. With the unofficial vote tally the next morning at roughly 500 votes in Roe’s favor, Davis refused to concede, despite winning the 2006 primary by only 573 votes himself. Instead, Davis tried to raise doubt on the validity of the outcome, issuing a statement saying Democrats had conspired to throw the election by voting in the Republican primary. The charge gained little traction considering Tennessee has an open primary system that does not require registration by party. Davis conceded a week later. Roe’s margin of victory was 482 votes. He won the district’s two largest counties, Washington and Sullivan, while Davis was strong along the western edge of the district, winning Sevier and Hawkins counties. In November, Roe easily beat Democrat Robert Russell with 72% of the vote.
Roe’s positions are similar to Davis’, mirroring the conservative bent of the district. He’s anti-abortion rights and pro-gun ownership. He opposes any form of amnesty for illegal immigrants. As a doctor, Roe says he is committed to reforming the medical insurance system, but opposes government-run health care. And he says his experience as a physician and as a mayor taught him the need for bipartisanship. “What we get separated on are the little issues that get all the noise,” he said.
Roe was appointed to the Agriculture, Education and Labor and Veterans’ Affairs committees. Davis said in March 2009 that he hadn’t ruled out trying to get the seat back in 2010, and was continuing to push for a bill in the Tennessee Legislature to require voters to register by party for primaries.