Rick Kernea, a former Air Force captain, said he is entering a crowded 3rd Congressional District GOP primary race to offer East Tennessee residents "the type of guy that fights for his principles literally and figuratively."
Mr. Kernea, 31, flew domestic safety missions for the Air Force from 2000 to 2009. He provided aerial coverage during President George W. Bush's trip to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and also has protected presidential candidates during campaign seasons.
His military experience, he said, will make a difference when it comes to national security.
"You can't be in Congress or any place that can send men and women to war unless you've walked in the boots," he said.
Mr. Kernea is among several candidates who hope to succeed U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn., who has held the seat since 1995. Rep. Wamp is giving up the seat to run for governor.
Citing his administrative role in maintaining a $12 million Air Force flight program, Mr. Kernea said he has the financial expertise to manage the federal government. He condemned recent health care legislation by Congress, calling the proposed reforms costly and dangerous to Tennessee's budget.
"The fact that we're passing legislation just because we want to save a person's presidency is ridiculous," he said. "If it's not good legislation, you don't pass it."
The Hixson resident feels that national politicians are too committed to special interest groups that finance their campaigns.
"I don't have any ties to those groups, which I feel is a big problem we have on (Capitol) Hill," Mr. Kernea said.
Bill Welch, a family friend, said Mr. Kernea would "get the American flag back in business and get our jobs back."
ABOUT RICK KERNEA
* Age: 31
* Education: Bachelor's of science degree from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with specialties in public administration and economics
* Occupation: Former Air Force captain and licensed commercial pilot
For more info: Visit www.kerneacongress.com
"He would definitely do things that this country needs to get back together," Mr. Welch said. "He'll stand up for the veterans and senior citizens."
Mr. Kernea joins a packed Republican primary field in the 3rd District race. Other candidates include former state GOP party Chairwoman Robin Smith, Chattanooga attorney Chuck Fleischmann, Bradley County Sheriff Tim Gobble, businessman Tommy Crangle, attorney Van Irion and educator/consultant Jean Howard-Hill, among others. Businessman Mark DeVol is running as an independent.
Educator Brenda Short is the only Democrat who has qualified in the race. Another Democrat, physician Brent Staton, picked up campaign papers on March 18, according to the Hamilton County Election Commission.
The 3rd Congressional District includes all or part of 11 counties -- Hamilton, Bradley, Polk, Meigs, Rhea, Roane, Anderson, Union, Claiborne, Grainger and Jefferson -- and stretches from Georgia to the Kentucky and Virginia lines.
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