By LISA WHALEY
U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, joined senatorial candidate Dr. Manny Sethi in Jonesborough Friday to lend his support to a man he says is already well on his way to winning the 2020 election.
Sethi is vying for the seat soon-to-be vacated by retiring U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander.
“God Bless the Great State of Tennessee,” Cruz told a crowd of enthusiastic supporters at the 8 a.m. event held at the Heritage Place, next to Food City. “And since I know you’re gonna tell me it anyway, let me be the first to acknowledge: Without Tennessee there wouldn’t be a Texas.”
Cruz continued. “We are grateful for the hardscrabble, tough freedom fighters who went west with a passion in their hearts that you will not hold us down. And that spirit, that spirit that founded Tennessee, that spirit that founded Texas, that spirit that founded the United States of America, that spirit has never been more needed than it is right here today.”
That, Cruz said, is why he is in Tennessee to back Sethi, a man who he characterizes as a Washington outsider ready and able to take on the corrupt establishment.
“What you all are doing in this race — what Dr. Manny and what y’all are doing — is scaring the living daylights out of Washington D.C.,” Cruz said of the Nashville surgeon who is vying with 14 other candidates to secure the nomination on the Aug. 6 Republican Primary. “There is one reason they are attacking Dr. Manny. It is because they believe he is not going to sit down and shut up and do what they say.”
And that, Cruz said, is why Sethi is the right man for the job.
The crowd’s cheers, shouts and applause showed their support.
“He is not a political person,” explained voter Ron Winters, from Elizabethton, who spent most of the rally shouting “Amen” and “Yes sir” to Cruz and Sethi. “He is an everyday American who understands our country and the needs of our country.”
Eighteen-year-old Lakie Derrick, who was at the rally with her mother, Amber, and brother, Walker, echoed that belief.
“I’m actually a first-time voter,” said Derrick, who lives with her family in Kingsport. “So when I got to cast my vote for Dr Manny Sethi I was super excited.”
The Friday morning rally left her feeling empowered, she said.
“Especially being a first-time voter,” said Derrick, who plans on attending East Tennessee State University in the fall. “I just love everything (Cruz and Sethi) stand for, from being a Christian to being a conservative. And I am able to feel heard. It’s so hard being a young adult and being heard with the views that I have.”
For Sethi, who grew up in Hillsboro in Tennessee, Friday’s visit felt a little like coming home.
“I am the product of rural Tennessee,” Sethi said after the rally in between questions from the press and photos with local supporters. “I grew up in Coffee County. Farmers had a hand in raising me.”
Because of that personal connection, he said, he cares about this region’s issues.
“The challenges in rural Tennessee are something I deeply understand,” Sethi said. “Number one, we need rural broadband. We need it yesterday. We need to think about this as a national infrastructure program.”
Second, he said, “This opioid crisis is killing our towns and our cities in rural America.”
Finally, “our unemployment rates in rural Tennessee are through the roof. We need to start investing in economic opportunities, doing more workforce training, technical and vocational agricultural education.”
And, despite the attacks as the campaign heats up between he and fellow front-runner former U.S. Ambassador to Japan, Bill Hagerty, Sethi said he is determined not to reciprocate, though he stresses his support of President Trump and the repeal and replacement of Obamacare as a counter to just two of the current inaccuracies.
“My opponent has chosen a dark path to go negative,” Sethi said. “In this campaign, we’re going to take the high road. We are the true conservatives and we are winning. And my opponent knows this.”
Still, Cruz said, it is not over yet and the results ultimately lie in the hands of the voters come Aug. 6.
“Now we are in the home stretch. Election Day is right around the corner.” Cruz said. “Right now is early voting.”
And, “we are winning.”
“I’d like to modify that with a Texas-ism that I’m sure you in Tennessee are familiar with,” he added, “which is ‘We’re fixin’ to win.’”
But that win will remain out of reach without the support of the voters, Cruz stressed.
“Let me tell you right now, Dr. Manny can’t win this race. He can’t do it,” he said. “But you can. This is the campaign. It is each of you that will decide the outcome of this race.”
So go out and vote, Cruz said. “That’s how you change the country.”
The Republican Primary for the United States Senate will be held Aug. 6. Early voting continues through Aug. 1. General Election is scheduled to be held Nov. 3.