Politics

Tennessee’s Phil Roe Could Be 10th GOP Chairman to Call It Quits

Roe is in first term as head of Veterans’ Affairs Committee

Tennessee Rep. Phil Roe hasn’t yet decided if he will run for re-election in November. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Tennessee Rep. Phil Roe said Monday he would decide in the “next week or so” whether to run for a sixth term. The House Veterans’ Affairs chairman cited family considerations as a reason he may opt against re-election.

If he decides against running, Roe will be the tenth Republican committee chairman to leave the House after this term. (That includes Rep. Diane Black, who announced her decision when she chaired the Budget Committee, a post she has since relinquished to focus on her campaign for Tennessee governor.)

Roe took the helm of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee at the beginning of ;this Congress. His unfinished work on the panel could be a reason for him to stay on and seek re-election, unlike many retiring chairmen who will be termed out as top Republican on the panels after this year, per GOP rules.

“I truly have not decided,” Roe said Monday night when asked if he was close to a decision.

The Tennessee Republican raised just $3,700 during the fourth quarter of 2017 — a reflection of his lack of a decision, he said. He raised less than $100,000 during each of the three previous quarters of 2017, including only $14,000 during the first quarter.

Roe said he wants to decide soon.

“The filing’s not till April, but if I decide not to, I want to make sure people have enough time to get a campaign together,” he said.

The retired OB-GYN represents the deeply red 1st District in northeastern Tennessee. He was first elected in 2008, unseating freshman GOP Rep. David Davis in the Republican primary.

Roe, a former mayor of Johnson City, was diagnosed with prostate cancer last year. When asked about his plans for re-election by Kingsport Times-News reporters in late January, Roe said he was waiting for the results of medical tests and cited his role as Veterans Affairs’ chairman. He said Monday he’s in good health.

If he retires, Roe would be the fourth of Tennessee’s nine House members to not seek re-election this fall. Republican Sen. Bob Corker isn’t running either.

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race for Roe’s 1st District Solid Republican. President Donald Trump carried the district by nearly 60 points in 2016. If he doesn’t run, Roe suggested the GOP field to replace him could include local elected officials and first-time candidates.

A number of names are already being thrown around in the state. They include state Rep. Timothy Hill; Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge; Kingsport Chamber of Commerce President Miles Burdine, who represents the 1st District on the Tennessee Board of Regents; state Rep. David Hawk; and Patrick Jaynes, deputy chief of staff and state director to Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander. Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten is mentioned as a wildcard. He played football at the University of Tennessee and could bring his own money to the race.

Watch: How the Open Seats Are (or Aren’t) Creating Opportunities in the House

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