Johnson City, Tenn (WJHL) – Blair Walsingham knows – running as a Democrat in a heavily Republican district presents a major challenge.
“I’m American above all else,” Walsingham told News Channel 11. “I have a few things that make me more of a Democrat. But I’m a very moderate Democrat, very pragmatic. Very well-rounded.”
Those are characteristics Walsingham said were forged in tough times.
She enlisted in the military at 17, the daughter of a military family. Walsingham said by the time she left the military, she was a single mother who’d suffered abuse and who’d learned through hard times how to stand on her own.
“It’s hard to get your life together after leaving an abusive relationship and trying to put yourself through school and raising a family while working two jobs,” she said. “It wasn’t always easy. But that’s how I learned to be so determined.”
She’s now married with four children. Three years ago, Walsingham’s family chose Hawkins County to build a homestead where she could run her small business as a dog trainer and groomer.
“I’m a small business owner. I’m a veteran. I’m a mother. I have a homestead. I’m everything the voters seem to want,” Walsingham said.
Walsingham said she grew up wanting to be a mayor. “To me, they were the superheroes,” she said. After volunteering for the presidential campaign for Andrew Yang, she decided it was time to run for public office herself.
Blair Walsingham on key issues
While a crowded pack of Republicans spent the spring and summer battling for the nomination – some spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on strategic media campaigns – Walsingham said she temporarily suspended her campaign to focus on helping people in the pandemic, all the while building a network of committed supporters.
By primary day on August 6th, the other Democratic candidates had left the primary, Walsingham was the last candidate standing, and she’d made up her mind she was in it to win.
Campaign finance records show she spent $31,717 in the primary through the end of June – a fraction of what Republican nominee Diana Harshbarger spent.
Walsingham said she raised $6,000 for Covid-19 relief efforts. This past weekend, she awarded the first installment of what she calls the “Freedom Grant” to two Johnson City residents who will receive $500 every month for a year. Walsingham asked supporters to contribute to the fund, which she said was her way of helping people move from surviving to thriving.
If elected, she promises to promote a Freedom Dividend – a $1,000 a month direct payment to every American.
“If I had millions of dollars, I would not throw it into a political campaign,” Walsingham said. “I would be out here doing good like I have been doing good through my campaign.”
“The reality is you have one big pharma millionaire candidate who isn’t in touch with the people and isn’t accessible. And then you have me. I am accessible. I am hard working. I’m a patriot who served my country and this is how I want to serve again.”
Harshbarger’s pharmaceutical career has been as a small business owner, not as part of large pharmaceutical company typically referred to with the nickname “big pharma”.
While Walsingham hopes to draw contrasts between herself and Republican opponent Harshbarger, she also hopes to draw a contrast between herself and her own political party, urging voters not make assumptions about where she stands on political issues. One example – gun rights.
“They assume because I’m a Democrat that I would want to come and knock on the door and take their guns away,” she said. “I am a gun owner. My parents are gun owners. I’m a veteran. I’m trained to use my firearm as well.”
On economic policy, Walsingham said she’s focused on anything that will offer immediate help to working families in Northeast Tennessee.
“From what I’ve seen there’s not a thriving middle class. There’s a middle class on the brink of falling from one emergency bill they can’t afford.”
Walsingham said she supports both police and common sense police reform while also respecting the Black Lives Matter movement.
“There’s a big difference between a looter and peaceful protestor,” she said. “People keep lumping them into one group, and that’s not right for any group of people.”
Walsingham said her stance on abortion requires explanation.
“I’m pro-choice, but I’m also pro-life in many ways,” she said, adding that she supports legal access to abortions but will work to reduce abortions by reducing poverty. “If you look at reasons why abortions happen, making it illegal isn’t going to change that.”
According to her website, Walsingham believes health care is a human right, and she supports legislation granting universal access.
Walsingham is in favor of full legalization of marijuana. “It’s insanely lucrative. It would bring a massive amount of funds here to East Tennessee that we really need.”
And she supports a mandatory Congressional term limit – even for the most powerful Democrat in Congress. “Nancy Pelosi has served for 31 years,” she said. “I’m a huge fan of term limits. It’s really time for someone to step in. I would love to see a new house speaker.”
While her Republican opponent continues to campaign as a fierce ally of President Trump, Walsingham said she’ll work with the president if elected to help the first district.
“If Americans elect Donald Trump as the next president again, I would do everything I can to work with him while representing people here in East Tennessee.”
Walsingham says she’s backed by an army of unpaid volunteers who want to help her make history.
“If East Tennessee elects another big-pharma millionaire, it won’t be because I didn’t give it my all to give them someone real and accountable to represent them.”
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