KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) – First-generation college graduate and self-proclaimed “Trump Conservative” Diana Harshbarger said Monday her three decades as a problem-solving small business owner make her the right choice for Tennessee’s First Congressional seat.
“You look at the shape the country’s in and we’re at a tipping point,” Harshbarger said during a break from work at Premier Pharmacy, which she owns with her husband. “My skill set is small business, conservative, I’m an avid supporter of President Trump and I would love to go to Washington to support his America First agenda.”
Harshbarger, 60, has run a digital ad-heavy campaign since announcing her candidacy March 12. The Bloomingdale native, a graduate of Mercer University’s pharmacy school, is one of 14 candidates in the Aug. 6 Republican primary.
Calling her faith “a catalyst for every decision I make,” Harshbarger said she would continue that approach in Washington.
“That’s important to me and I think it’s important to most voters. That’s an approach where if you don’t have to answer to special interests you can do what is right, and they’re very deficient in that in Washington.”
Harshbarger, who spoke of the value of learning a trade and talked of her father working multiple jobs, said she would make jobs and workforce development priorities if elected to Congress.
“One thing I’ve learned it, when you have a job you have hope,” she said. “When you don’t have a job, sometimes you have no hope and that leads to things like drug abuse and criminal activity.”
“We need good-paying jobs, and to have jobs you’ve got to have employers, and to entice an employer to this area you’ve got to have a trained workforce.”
Harshbarger has never run for political office at any level but has traveled to Washington some to represent the interests of compounding pharmacists.
“We’re so overregulated in the pharmacy industry that you have to have a voice and as a compounder that’s what I’ve done,” she said.
She said her skill set lies in grappling with the problems everyday people like her patients, and small business owners like herself, face.
“I’m a problem solver. The skill set that I have learned in over 30 years of practice is I’ve listened to people on a daily basis, I’ve listened to their problems, and what I try to do as a health care professional is come up with a solution.
“And they’re not gonna wait until next week for that solution to be had. They want it now, and it’s critical in a lot of cases. You have to work with the facts you’re given and come up with a solution that’s viable at the time and you can change it down the road if you need that.”
On the issues, conservative
Harshbarger said she’s pro-life and “an avid supporter of the Second Amendment.” She said she supports competition in business, saying that through it “the consumer wins.” At the same time, she said, the struggles faced by her patients drive some of her efforts at problem-solving.
“On a local level you see what’s going on with patients every day. When they have to make a decision to whether they’re going to buy medicine or they’re going to eat that week, that’s tragic. … We don’t want to turn anybody away. We’ll pick the phone up and we’ll come up with a solution, we’ll call their healthcare provider and say, ‘hey, we can do this.’
“We saw that problem, and that’s some of the things that drove me to this decision that I (made).”
Harshbarger called East Tennessee “an undersold part of the country.” She said she’d like to be a part of making recruitment easier here, and of seeing the area attract more young professionals.
“I want to go represent East Tennessee in Washington,” she said, “but what I really want to do is I want to represent East Tennessee to Washington.”
More than once, Harshbarger leaned on her outsider status and her desire to support Trump and his agenda, saying her lack of political history made her well-suited for that and for representing Northeast Tennesseans’ interests.
“I’m not a politician,” she said. “I am a conservative small business owner. I am a health care provider, and I understand the situation that people in this region face on a daily basis and I think that people want a fresh approach and new ideas that someone would be willing to go to Congress and take and pursue that with the president himself.”
Harshbarger’s website is votediana.com and includes links to her social media sites.