JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Chris Rowe was ready to embark on a tech career when a late 2018 visit to his dad in Elizabethton stopped the Johnson City native in his tracks.
The Air Force veteran and recent college graduate saw a man not yet 60, brought low not just by ill health, but by the stress of not being able to pay for care.
“I knew that we had to do a lot of things to get our country right, but it really highlighted how serious the medical situation was when my father, who was working 40 hours a week every week just trying to keep a roof over their heads and food on their plates couldn’t afford basic medical coverage to get treatment that he obviously and desperately needed,” Rowe said.
So Rowe — who, coincidentally was delivered by outgoing Congressman Dr. Phil Roe — decided to run for Congress. The 31-year-old, set to face Larry Smith in the August Democratic primary, said a single-payer healthcare system is his signature issue.
The self-described “pro-gun patriot,” who served both stateside and at Aviano Air Base in Italy, said two-thirds of bankruptcies in the United States stem from medical debt. He called the health insurance industry “a parasite on our country’s back.”
“Basically what we deal with right now is people deciding ‘is it worth gambling my health, my life, on being able to have just a little more money to live on right now,’ and that’s unacceptable to me,” Rowe said.
Rowe, who’s never run for office, said he’s trying to earn name recognition by attending events and trying to “humanize” himself, and in particular to show Republicans “I’m not some evil person here to take your money or your guns or anything along those lines.”
Rowe said he’s endured some criticism from Democrats for his pro-Second Amendment stance. He favors removing guns from the possession of people who have “proven themselves likely to be dangerous,” which he said “strikes a very appropriate and realistic balance between everyone’s right to bear arms and everyone’s right to safety, life, liberty.”
Veteran Rowe on the veteran Roe and veteran services
Rowe said he applauds Phil Roe for “one or two very real substantial successes” he’s achieved in his work with the House Veterans Affairs committee. Beyond that, he takes the six-term Congressman to task, saying the vast majority of work he’s done in that arena has harmed veterans.
In particular, Rowe criticized privatization of veterans’ care that came in the wake of a scandal centered around a VA in Phoenix.
“We’ve done very little to address that,” Rowe said. “Instead we try to blame the problems on the VA system itself and we start cutting those services and sending them out to private industries at the expense of both the veterans who need that coverage and the taxpayers who subsidize it.”
The result, Rowe said, has been businesses “making that profit off of our veterans who have already dedicated so much of their life to our country and really just want to get some decent treatment out of it on the other end.”
‘No Dem Left Behind’
Rowe, espouses generally party line positions on the environment, LGBTQ rights, women’s rights (including abortion), legalizing marijuana and a higher minimum wage. He said he’s been endorsed by a national organization called “No Dem Left Behind,” which aims to support candidates in traditionally Republican, rural districts.
In addition to a five-member campaign team, Rowe said he’s relying on that organization to help him spread his message.
“Probably most importantly around here I am pro-gun, I’m a patriot, and I love my family and this area,” Rowe said. “I think we deserve so much better than what we’re getting and I am prepared to give that to us.”
Rowe’s website is chrisroweforcongress.com.
News Channel 11 is Your Local Election Headquarters. Click here for the latest election news and results.