GREENEVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) – Citing a conservative voting record, strong constituent services and finance-heavy legislative experience, nine-term State Representative David Hawk (R-Greeneville) officially entered the First District Congressional race Thursday.
Hawk, who chairs the Tennessee House of Representatives’ TennCare Committee and serves on the Finance, Ways and Means committee, said he learned about helping people meet their needs during 20 years in small business. Hawk’s family clothing store, The Tailor Shop, closed about a decade ago.
Hawk touted his 89 percent lifetime rating with the American Conservative Union, saying it compared favorably with fellow state legislators in the Congressional race Rep. Timothy Hill (88 percent) and Sen. Rusty Crowe (83 percent). Hawk said he’s also running to retain his state seat, something that is allowed.
“This is a very conservative district,” Hawk said. “We don’t ask for much, we don’t want much, we just want the conservative principles to be adhered to whenever someone votes in Nashville or whenever someone votes in Washington.”
Hawk said the economy and jobs are the top two issues for the First District, which has been represented by the retiring Phil Roe since 2009. He said he was pleased to be part of efforts to increase educational attainment in Tennessee, that led to better job readiness.
“I want to take that model to Washington, and help recruit jobs to Northeast Tennessee that are going to pay a better wage,” Hawk said. He mentioned his 19-year-old daughter, a chemical engineering major at University of Tennessee, (Hawk is a single father of two girls) as an example of the type of “best and brightest” who need opportunities to excel in Northeast Tennessee.
“I want to try to bring the next Eastman to Northeast Tennessee, and I think we can do that. I think we’ve got the workforce, I think we’ve got the intelligence to do that and I want to be part of bringing that next major industry to Northeast Tennesee. I can do that by helping through Washington.”
Conservative, fiscal hawk
Hawk is the best-known candidate from the west end of a district that stretches from Johnson County in the northeast to Cocke County in the southwest.
“I’m the only candidate that’s going to be in the western part of the district and I hope to be their choice as well. The geography of the district lends to my benefit there.”
He said his legislative skill set tends to revolve around finance issues. He’s served on the finance committee for nine of the past 10 years.
“I have a keen understanding of how to understand all the intricacies of the budget and value what financial investments are going to help the most people across the whole country,” Hawk said.
“I want to be a part of reining in the national debt. We’ve just seen a two trillion dollar stimulus package that’s been passed. That’s on borrowed money. We’re eventually going to have to get ourselves back on track again in terms of the fiscal deficit that we’re running. I want to be a part of that solution that comes up with how we rein in our national debt and I think that’s ultimately where my skill set best lies.”
Speaking of money, Hawk said the first race to replace a retiring First District incumbent will be an expensive one. Saying “no candidate is going to have enough money to run this particular race,” Hawk added that he’s confident in his ability to put $500,000 into the effort.
He said that will allow for everything from direct mail and push cards to TV and radio advertising.
“We’re going to go full bore into that. I think that we’ve got promises that are going to get us real close to that half-million dollar range to where we can run a full blown, very effective campaign and get our message out to the voters of the First Congressional District.”
‘A different type of campaign’
The COVID-19 crisis will create a different campaigning landscape for at least the next month or more. Hawk said he’s already settling into what he called an “old school” campaign that includes phone calls and hand written letters. Hawk also said he expects a truncated campaign in some respects, with people really starting to pay attention around June.
Unlike Timothy Hill, who’s elected not to simultaneously defend his state house seat, Hawk will also compete in the 5th District primary. He said Greene County “wants me to serve them in some way, shape or form” and since no one has filed to run in the 5th District primary, that “gives me the leeway and the ability to run for both seats at the same time.”
Hawk also addressed a 2013 misdemeanor reckless endangerment conviction stemming from a 2012 incident with his then-wife. “I’ve told the truth about the whole process, I did no harm to anyone and thankfully my constituents in Greene County who know me the best have elected and reelected me four times since then.”
Hawk won a four-person primary after the incident, beating runner up Ted Hensley by 5 percent.
A lifelong member of Reformation Lutheran Church, Hawk, 51, has a master’s in business marketing from East Tennessee State University and is a Kiwanis Club member and former baseball coach.