JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Self-described introvert and “policy nerd” Dr. Josh Gapp is willing to be a lightning rod on the issue of political correctness if elected to represent Tennessee’s First Congressional District.
“Political correctness really is a cancer in our system, and until people are willing to stand up and take a stand against it it’s not going to get better, it’s gonna keep getting worse,” Gapp told News Channel 11 Wednesday. “I’m willing to be that lightning rod. I’m willing to take that stand. Not only am I willing, I’m putting my money where my mouth is.”
Gapp, who lives west of the district in Knoxville but said he’s in the process of finding a place in Northeast Tennessee to move his family, said he’s “in it to win” the crowded Aug. 6 Republican primary.
Gapp pivoted to the Congressional race just before the filing deadline after spending more than $200,000 — much of which he loaned to his own campaign — running in the GOP Senate primary. Last year he entered that primary, which had him vying for the chance to represent the party this fall for the seat being vacated by Lamar Alexander.
Most of the $67,000-plus Gapp had on hand at the end of March from that campaign could be transferred to his House run. Gapp said he will “spend what it takes to win.”
He had never run for public office before, instead focusing on his medical career, raising four children and building a business that includes an office in Johnson City.
“Last year the whole PC atmosphere just kept getting worse and worse,” Gapp said. He’d talked about running for office but was going to wait until all his kids were in college.
“It’s too important to sit on the sideline any longer and that’s why we’re doing what we’re doing,” he said.
Gapp said Roe hadn’t announced his retirement when he had his “aha moment” and decided to seek office. With what he called several good candidates in the senate race (Bill Hagerty and Dr. Manny Sethi are the frontrunners), Gapp said he decided to pivot to the House race.
“The fight with political correctness, it’s actually in the House,” Gapp said. “That’s where the squad is, that’s where Nancy Pelosi is and that’s where I feel like at this point in my career I’m better suited to make a difference, or I’m best suited.”
Despite a late entry, relatively low name recognition and his living outside the district, Gapp said he believes his entrepreneurial and health care experience, interest in policymaking and willingness to battle with Democrats over cultural issues makes him best suited to represent the district.
He said whether the issue is race relations, immigration, abortion, gun rights or the economy, he believes political correctness skews conversations and prevents solutions.
“Any time your opponent is kind of left of you they shut down the debate, they don’t try to win on the merit of their ideas or the merit of their arguments,” Gapp said.
“The fact that we can no longer talk with each other in reasonable dialogue, these issues will never get resolved if that’s the case.”
Gapp said he is planning to move his family to the First District even if he’s not elected to Congress. He said he’s diagnosed thousands of skin cancers of people in the district, and has helped build his business with a Johnson City location, pH7 Dermatology.
The business of medicine
A self-described “born entrepreneur” who took out his first business loan as a teenager, the North Dakota native is a married father of four specializing in dermatopathology, or the diagnosis of skin cancers. He also has an MBA from Vanderbilt.
“I had my first employee when I was 21, I’ve created countless jobs since then and I’ve hired hundreds of people over the years so I know what it takes to start a business, I know what it takes to create jobs, I know what it takes to be successful in business.”
Gapp’s skill set would suit him to committees and policies centered around business and health care, he said.
“In my businesses, the regulation and the constant red tape, it slows things down and it hinders progress and efficiencies. I think the government gets in the way a lot.”
On health care, Gapp said he has a “four-point plan” that includes a couple of fairly common ideas and one that may be unique. In addition to calling for deregulation to allow insurance to be sold across state lines and reducing Medicare bureaucracy, he favors changing tax policy to allow providers to write off care they provide to underprivileged patients without insurance.
“That’ll create a marketplace where providers will be fighting for those patients, they’ll be fighting to get those patients, so we’re introducing free market back into the system which is what we need to do,” Gapp said.
Deregulating Medicare, he said, could save the country untold dollars. “Right now the rules I have to follow for Medicare are like 100,000 pages long.” He cited a study from several years ago that showed the average physician is responsible for 17 employees — 10 of them administrative.
“So only seven laid hands on patients,” Gapp said. “We need administrators, but we don’t need the majority of the system to be administrative. If we can cut that back, if we could just knock it down to nine, that’s a savings of 7 percent. Multiply that by what we spend, it would be astronomical.”
Gapp said political correctness impacts standard political issues such as the Second Amendment, abortion and illegal immigration, on which his views are similarly conservative to those of his opponents. But he said he sees it as most damaging in the realm of economics and what he called “the progression of communism.”
“It’s not just communist China or some theoretical threat across the ocean. It’s literally the Democratic party and their subversive antifa supporters,” Gapp said.
“They’re railing against the fundamental founding of our country. They want to, they literally want to tear it down and erase the history of our founding. We need to stand up. We need to push back and say ‘no it’s not ok.’
“As long as I’m up there we will fight that fight and I will gladly pick up the sword and take that to them.”
While he’s pushing the anti-political correctness narrative and an affinity for President Trump’s approach to governance in his campaign material — including ads that began running last week — Gapp said he’s not naturally inclined to the public-facing nature of politics.
“The old joke is the introverted pathologist looks at their shoes, the extroverted pathologist looks at their neighbor’s shoes,” he said, grinning.
“Doing this is stepping way outside of my comfort zone. I’m doing it because I think it’s important. I’m taking these things because I passionately believe we need to make these changes and we need to do these things to make our world a better a place.”