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U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann believes he's found his stride as a member of Congress and feels most of his congressional district agrees.
"I have a record, a record I'm proud of," he said. "I want to continue to be a strong independent voice for the people of the 3rd District."
The Republican, who is seeking his fourth term, is opposed by Democrat Melody Shekari and independents Topher Kersting, Cassandra Mitchell and Rick Tyler.
We believe Fleischmann works steadily and diligently on issues important to his East Tennessee district, as well as on constituent services — 90 percent of his job, he says. He deserves re-election.
The maintenance of the current Chickamauga lock, funding for construction of the new lock and the functions of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory continue to be his primary areas of federal concern, he said, but he also has found rewards in chairing the Nuclear Cleanup Caucus, in promoting workforce development and in being a member of a bipartisan opioid abuse group.
During his current term, Fleischmann also has worked to transfer unused parcels of land from the Tennessee Valley Authority back to the community, including one in Monroe County on the shores of Tellico Reservoir to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.
Fleischmann acknowledges there are "strong, bona fide differences of opinion in the way that the country's going," but he believes — no matter who is elected president — that "Congress needs to find a way to take back some of [the] power" that President Obama has usurped for the executive branch.
"We have to get the balance of power back in line," he said.
The congressman also asserts that, again, no matter the president, entitlement reform must be tackled.
"Some type of give and take" will be necessary, he said.
Third District residents are concerned about national security, want to see White House support for U.S. ally Israel and desire to see the murderous Islamic State defeated, Fleischmann said.
To that end, earlier this year, he offered a bill that requires the Department of Homeland Security to use testimony from former extremists and defectors to be a counterweight to propaganda used in recruitment efforts by terrorists groups like the Islamic State. The bill passed and eventually was folded into a larger package of bills to combat terrorism.
Fleischmann, 54, said his constituents also have expressed a disdain for Obamacare, which has raised health care premiums, and for the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which hass restricted access to credit and favored big banks over small banks, the opposite of why it was created.
Shekari, 28, is a bright, friendly, open graduate of local private schools who earned a master's degree in public administration from the University of Washington and a law degree from the University of Southern California. Not extreme left like most people in today's Democratic Party, she sees the 3rd District as "pretty moderate" and its infrastructure needs and employment issues as priorities.
If elected, she would be the youngest woman ever elected to Congress, and she says she wears her millennial label — and its high tolerance for diversity — proudly.
Shekari acknowledges the failures of Obamacare but says she hasn't "seen a better plan." She advocates re-examining things, "considering all options" and looking at other systems.
Working with federal projects in Oak Ridge fits into her "policy wonk" side, she said, and she'd like to help commercialize the technology there.
In general, Shekari says, she's "open to good ideas," says the district's "strength is to do things together" and believes representatives should get away from caring "more about their party than about getting something done."
Kersting, 47, a Chattanooga single father and nanny who has been an e-commerce consultant, considers himself a fiscal conservative and social liberal.
"Congress has become more and more polarized," he said. "Maybe an independent could bring people together."
Kersting uses Obamacare and believes Fleischmann and Congress wasted too much time voting against it. In Congress, he hopes to assist the federal government on spending money on efforts where it also can make money such as the Human Genome Project, NASA and national parks.
He also would have government get out of the marriage business altogether and, though he is pro-choice, would heavily restrict abortion after the 20th week.
Mitchell, 28, an Anderson County graphic designer/app developer/engineer, is making her second run for the 3rd District office. She would like to see term limits for House members, pharmaceutical pricing regulations and marijuana legalized across the country.
She's "glad" the country "took a step" with Obamacare but acknowledges its "rough spots," believes more technology would help with immigration enforcement and can see both positive and negative in raising the minimum wage.
Tyler, 59, already infamous for his "Make America White Again" billboard in Polk County, says his election would be the "most signature phenomenon in American history."
Too often, he said, the country's solution is "to throw more government at it." That, he said, has created a "welfare state." To help remedy that, he said, he would prevent, going forward, the immigration of anyone nonwhite and "work on the restoration of a white super majority" in America.
We strongly urge a vote for Fleischmann.