KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) — Republican political newcomer Diana Harshbarger has won the race to replace Rep. Phil Roe, who did not seek a seventh term as representative of Tennessee’s 1st Congressional District.
A self-described “Trump conservative” who earned the president’s endorsement, Harshbarger faced Democrat Blair Walsingham and independent candidate Steve Holder in the general election.
Harshbarger said that, if elected, debt reduction would be a priority of hers in Congress. She also said she is a staunch supporter of the 2nd Amendment and will work to advance President Trump’s “America First” agenda if the president is re-elected.
The Kingsport pharmacist will become the second woman to represent the 1st Congressional District, the first being Louise Reece, who was elected in 1961 to fill the vacancy created by the death of her husband, Brazilla Carroll Reece.
Harshbarger’s victory is hardly surprising considering Republicans have held the 1st District seat for well over a century, but her path to victory wasn’t without controversy.
She drew criticism for refusing to debate Walsingham because she did not want to “dignify” her opponent’s alleged anti-police platform. Walsingham called Harshbarger’s comments “divisive rhetoric” and a misrepresentation of her platform. She also said her opponent’s refusal to debate was a “blatant disregard for the democratic process.”
Harshbarger did not participate in two debates with fellow Republican candidates during the primary race.
In an interview with News Channel 11, she defended her decision to avoid debates and called herself “a new politician.”
“Politicians are used to getting on stage and having questions that are given to them and giving canned answers,” Harshbarger said. “Look, I don’t have canned answers.”
Harshbarger secured the endorsement of both the president and her soon-to-be predecessor, Rep. Roe.
Campaign finance records show that Harshbarger largely self-funded her campaign. Of her receipts, $1,456,793 has been self-funding (loans to the campaign from herself). Her total receipts through the campaign amounted to just more than $2 million.
“When you believe so strongly that you want to change the face of this nation and you want to take your country back, it’s worth anything that you have to put up,” she said.
“I can cast a vote and have a clear conscience. I don’t owe anyone anything.”
Harshbarger touted her lack of experience during her campaign, saying she will bring “a fresh approach and new ideas” to Congress.