What is a 'non-campaign campaign' event?

Hank Hayes • Apr 30, 2019 at 8:45 PM

Former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen, a Democrat, used to do them. So did former U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, a Republican. Former President Barack Obama once did one at a Kroger in Bristol, Va.

I’m talking about what I call “non-campaign campaign” events.

These events are organized by the officeholder and paid for by the taxpayer, but almost look like a campaign road show.

U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, during his latest district work period, crisscrossed the First Congressional District and flooded the calendar with events from Erwin to Jefferson City. On a Monday afternoon, he met with the region’s top cops in Kingsport to hear their concerns about gangs and staffing. He also did an immigration town hall at the Sullivan County Justice Center to throw a spotlight on his support for more southern border fencing and security.

Chris Rowe, Roe’s possible 2020 November election opponent, tried to blow up that event by standing up and declaring he will unseat Roe.

That didn’t appear to go well.

“Full disclosure. My opponent, I delivered,” responded Roe, a retired obstetrician/gynecologist.

After the event, I got a letter from Roe thanking me for attending that event. 

“I agree with President Trump that the situation at our southern border presents a real security and humanitarian crisis, and I will continue to work with the president to secure our border and protect our country,” he said in the letter.

Later, in a column submission to the Times News (that wasn’t published), Roe, R-Tenn., said this: “It was interesting learning from the roundtables I hosted that many of the issues we are dealing with at the local level are affected by problems on our southern border. For instance, at the law enforcement roundtables in Kingsport and Morristown, many topics were discussed, but in particular we discussed about how drugs are the biggest problem they face. While opioids are a significant problem, I heard methamphetamine is still a predominant concern, a good deal of which is coming across our southern border. I was also saddened to hear many law enforcement officers still feel they are fighting a negative perception of the men and women protecting us.”

But because of the number of the events, that got me to thinking: Is Roe, who is 73 years old now, going to run for a seventh term in office in 2020? As a result of Democrats retaking the House in the 2018 election, Roe went down in the pecking order. He lost his chairman’s seat on the House Committee on Veterans Affairs.

Still, at the end of the immigration town hall, I asked him if he will run again.

“You never know,” he responded. “I always wait until Christmas and make a decision based on family and health and all that other stuff. I’m just interested, whether I’m here another year and a half, I’m going to get out and hear what people have to say. I want to keep working until the last day I’m in there.”

Hank Hayes covers politics and business for the Times News. Email him at hhayes@timesnews.net.