Larry Smith is joined by his wife, Joanne, and his son, Rodgers, during an event to officially announce his candidacy. (Contributed photo)

By Richard Rourk

The race for the U.S. Representative from Tennessee’s 1st Congressional District is beginning to take shape for the 2020 election.

Larry Smith, a history professor at Walter’s State and historian, has officially put his name in the running for the Democratic primary. Smith, who entered the race on Oct. 25 with an official campaign launch, will face Chris Rowe for Democratic nomination.

Smith and his campaign manager Victoria Hewlett, recently stopped by The Erwin Record to explain why Tennessee’s 1st Congressional District should consider voting for Smith.

“I got into the campaign because I wanted a progressive voice to be heard in East Tennessee,” Smith said. “I haven’t been satisfied with recent elections. I knew it was time after seeing the work that the Justice Democrats are doing.”

For Smith and Hewlett running a grassroots campaign was import and another reason that Smith is running for Tennessee’s 1st Congressional District.

“We are asking our donors for $18.81, that number represents the last time a Democrat held the 1st Congressional District seat, which was 1881,” Smith said. “I’m not running down the district, but it is towards the bottom in almost every category in regards to human welfare, so I don’t know who else you can blame if the republicans have been in charge that long, it’s certainly not the democrats.”

According to Hewlett, the $18.81 also represents a move away from big money and big business in the political landscape.

“We are grassroots organized. We are not taking money from corporate PACS. We are taking grassroots donations because we are accountable,” Hewlett said.

Smith said he is eager for Unicoi County and the rest of the 1st Congressional District of Tennessee to listen to his platform and to hear concerns of the citizens.

“We try to talk to anybody that will listen, and we are hearing from people that are dissatisfied with the way things are going, and they may not say they are looking for a democrat, but they are looking for a different vision for the future and that is what we are trying to provide,” Smith said.

“Smith is a different kind of candidate, and that is what really stands out,” Hewlett said. “He says things and fights for things that need to be fought for.”

When it comes to labels, Smith considers himself a different type of candidate.

“I stand with working people, that’s the party I answer to,” Smith said. “The ideas that I have are non-partisan – they are human ideas.”

Smith said he is in favor of universal healthcare.

“I believe that no one deserves to go without life-saving medical care because they cannot afford it,” Smith said. “Single-payer full-coverage Medicare-for-All will save lives, reduce health care costs for taxpayers and small businesses, streamline and reduce government and insurance bureaucracy, and ensure that every American can go to the doctor and get the care they need for a small co-pay.”

Smith also said he believes in the Green New Deal which, according to Smith, provides the collective framework to do this while transforming our economy towards sustainable industry.

Other issues that Smith views as important to the 1st Congressional District of Tennessee, especially in Unicoi County, are jobs and the economy.

“There is an opportunity for new jobs that would be created by A Green New Deal for this region,” Smith said. “This area, much like Carter County, would benefit from small businesses and by keeping the wealth in the community and keeping it local.”

Smith also sees an area of improvement to help eliminate the burden of taxpayers in sending drug offenders to rehab instead of jails.

“I think that we really need to look at real prison reform. By sticking drug offenders in jail, it costs the taxpayers dearly,” Smith said. “Drug addiction is a mental issue and we must end the cycle.”

On the national scale, Smith also defends Roe v. Wade.

“I feel that Roe v. Wade was a compromise then and should be seen as that today, and we should keep it,” Smith said. “It’s done a good job of doing what it was supposed to do, which is to give something to each party.”

Smith also supports the Democrats moving forward with the impeachment process of President Donald Trump if there are legitimate reasons to.

“This has been a distraction, because there are other things that we should be working on, but if there is evidence of high crimes and misdemeanors then I think they have to impeach; that’s the legal and moral thing to do,” Smith said. “I’m not privy to all of the evidence, but from the evidence I have seen, I think there is enough to question and to do the inquiries into impeachment.”

The 2020 Tennessee’s 1st Congressional District primary election is set for Aug. 6, 2020, and the 2020 Tennessee’s 1st Congressional District general election is set for Nov. 3, 2020.

For a full list of Smith’s platform or to keep up to date with rallies, follow Larry Smith for Congress on Facebook. If you are interested in volunteering or donating, visit larrysmithforcongress.com