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KNOXVILLE, Tennessee – Sen. Rand Paul, who was in Knoxville Saturday for a town hall event in support of Dr. Manny Sethi for U.S. Senate, said he has never seen a more sincere opponent of Obamacare.

“I guess that’s what sort of bothers me is that people would lie about that,” said Paul. “Obamacare has really messed up healthcare.

I think it’s been a disaster for the country.”

Paul’s comments were in response to The Tennessee Star’s question about when he decided to support Sethi when the pair met with the press after the more formal event.  Paul’s response was presumably related to the television ads by Sethi’s chief Republican primary opponent Bill Hagerty who accused Sethi of supporting Obamacare.

The town hall, held outside the Knox Expo Center on the final day of early voting, was attended by a few hundred people and featured the Republican Kentucky Senator who publicly endorsed Sethi about a month ago.

As the orange RV emblazoned with the “Dr. Manny Outsider, Conservative, Surgeon” logo pulled up with Sethi and Paul inside, the crowd cheered and applauded.

Clarence Sexton, revered Pastor of Temple Baptist Church and founder and President of Crown College offered an opening prayer after making a few comments about Sethi of whom he said, “I believe in the man running for U.S. Senate.”

Sexton spoke of the influence given to every one of us by God, which he said we should use the best we can.

He told the story of his friend of 30 years, former Congressman John “Jimmy” Duncan, who was also in attendance.  Sexton said Duncan called him to say, “This man, Manny Sethi is the real thing.”

Duncan used his influence to persuade Sexton, which he, in turn used to contact 600 pastors in Tennessee and then Zoom called some pastors in all 95 counties to introduce Sethi.

“This is not an ordinary time, not an ordinary election,” said Sexton.  “Our country is in the balance and men like this need to be in the United States Senate.”  The crowd responded enthusiastically with applause and an “Amen.”

“I’m going to put my two-cents worth in it and say that I’m for him.  I can’t tell anybody else who to vote for, but I can tell you who I’m voting for and I can encourage them to use the influence God has given them.”

By using influence, Sexton encouraged, “From this crowd, literally thousands could be reached.”

Former Congressman John “Jimmy” Duncan on stage, with Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs talking with U.S. Senate candidate Dr. Manny Sethi, as U.S. Senator Rand Paul looks on.

The popular and very recognizable Mayor of Knox County Glenn Jacobs made inspiring opening remarks, which he delivered passionately.

“America is the greatest country on this planet,” Jacobs said.

“The reason is, we’re more than a place on a map.  We’re more than a place that has great natural resources.  We’re more than a place that has great people,” he added. “We’re bound together by an ideal which is enshrined in the documents which founded this country that says all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, among these life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

He went on to say that he believes that with every fiber of his being, “because I’ve lived it.”

In that regard, Jacobs said he and Sethi are a lot alike, having grown up in rural parts of the country, using their God-given talents and skills and the opportunities this country afforded them to “do really cool things in our lives.”

“As a professional wrestler, I broke people’s bodies.  As a trauma surgeon, he fixed people’s bodies,” Jacobs joked.

Jacobs went on to talk about the Americans that hate that idea, adding that they are on the march.

Jacobs said that he and others fight to defend liberty, freedom, the constitution and keep the economies open in the wake of the pandemic so that people can work and live.  Meanwhile, said Jacobs, there are others that either don’t understand that folks have to earn a living or they are using the pandemic as a pretext to destroy their economies so that they can bring the country down, ruling – not governing – in a capricious and arbitrary manner.

“That,” Jacobs says, “is the definition of tyranny.”

Describing the situation in Portland, Oregon, Jacobs then promised, “Just like all of you, I will fight.  I will not falter.  I will not waver.  I will hold the line in Knox County.”

Jacobs concluded, “All of us need folks who will fight for us in Washington D.C.  Folks like Rand Paul.  And we need someone who will fight for us in the U.S. Senate alongside Rand Paul and that’s Manny Sethi,” as he introduced Duncan.

Duncan said he was not calling the event a Many Sethi rally, but an early victory celebration, a point the crowd appreciated.

Expressing his sense of pride, Duncan said that the New York Times ran an article that said he was the one who voted most like Sen. Paul’s father Ron.

The senior Paul, who Duncan said, “was and still is a real hero to me,” in his mid-eighties is still fighting for freedom in this country.  Duncan said he said all that so that people will understand it when he says he thinks, “Rand Paul has far surpassed his dad.”

Duncan said that he has been involved in every political race since he got his first paycheck as a bag boy at A&P getting paid $1.10 an hour and he sent a little over $19 to the Barry Goldwater campaign.

With more than 60 years of campaign experience, Duncan said he has never seen “so many false, negative and misleading ads that have run against this man,” gesturing toward Sethi, “in one of our statewide campaigns.”

“It’s horrible what they’re trying to do to Manny Sethi and we need to not let them get away with this,” urged Duncan.

He summarized the main differences in the campaigns of the two front runners as the Bill Hagerty campaign being run from Washington from the top down, while the Sethi campaign is “a grassroots people running campaign.”

Duncan said he understands that the “Senatorial Campaign Committee,” which is supporting the other candidate, had a poll a few days ago that showed Sethi five points ahead, a point enthusiastically received by the crowd.

“There’s never been this much money spent in such a short time as has been done in the last two or three weeks,” observed Duncan.

“I understand that Mr. Hagerty has borrowed $8.5 million personally himself, in addition to all the millions they raised previously and we’ll find out after the final reports after the election that there were even many millions more.”

Duncan said he had just done a robocall for Sethi, saying that to take a strong stand against socialism vote for Sethi.

Duncan said he was proud to stand with other conservatives supporting Sethi, including conservative talk show host and author Mark Levin, Senators Paul and Ted Cruz and former Senator Jim DeMint.

Having met Sethi just a few months ago, Duncan said he has found him to be a good and kind man who is running for all the right reasons and “won’t be a politically correct Senator that cares more about being accepted by the New York Times and The Washington Post.  He will care what you think and what you want out of a United States Senator.”

Calling for a standing ovation welcome for Sethi, Duncan brought Sethi to the stage.

Sethi expressed his appreciation for the warm reception and the other town hall participants and said every time he comes out the crowd keeps getting bigger and bigger.

He took a few minutes to make his short stump speech about his parents coming to this country legally and how he has lived the American dream.

He then addressed two issues, with the first being the COVID crisis, which he said is real and serious.

“But this Fauci guy,” said Sethi obviously connecting with his audience, “I’ve had about enough of this guy.”

Over the cheering and applauding crowd, Sethi continued, “It’s time for the president to bring him into the board room and say ‘You’re fired!’”

With regard to hydroxychloroquine, Sethi said we’re not sure, but it saved a colleague of his.

“Where does Facebook get off freezing the accounts of doctors who are talking about this?  Did that Mark Zuckerberg guy get an M.D.?  Where did he go to med school?”

“It’s time for Facebook and Twitter to get out of our business,” Sethi demanded.

The second thing Sethi addressed was the attacks by his opponent, saying he has always been against Obamacare and he was recently endorsed by Gun Owners of America.

He said that’s what the establishment does is to try to fool the voters that they’re conservative while they are calling him a liberal.

“If I’m so liberal, how come Rand Paul is sitting here right now?”

While the opponent came out with another attack ad earlier in the day, Sethi said he was going to take the high road, “Because I believe in you.”

“I’m here today because of you.  Because the people of Tennessee gave the American dream to me and my family.”

“In these final hours, I’m asking for your help and your support,” Sethi asked so that they could stay on TV and fight the establishment.

In introducing Paul, Sethi said, “This guy, now he knows a thing or two about taking on the establishment because in Kentucky they threw just about everything except the kitchen sink at this guy and he has stood for true conservative values. He has fought to keep big government out of our life.  He has fought to protect our First Amendment rights, our rights against search and seizure.  He is a true constitutional conservative, ladies and gentlemen, Senator Rand Paul.”

“Oh my goodness, I think I smell victory,” Paul told the receptive crowd.

He mentioned the turnout at events held over the past couple of weeks and said, “Manny is the real deal and he’s got a real chance, but we’ve got to finish this thing.”

“I promise you, if any of the attack ads were true, you wouldn’t see me, Ted Cruz, Levin, Jim DeMint,” said Paul, silently counting off Sethi’s four conservative supporters on his fingers.

“We are the conservatives of the conservatives. We are the remnants of the conservatives.”

Elaborating further, Paul said, “I’ll tell you why I’m involved. I think Tennessee will send a Republican.  But, it’s important what kind of Republican you send.”

Paul reviewed how Republicans promised to repeal Obamacare if they were given the House and the Senate.  When Republicans got both houses of Congress and they voted to repeal Obamacare, Obama vetoed it.

When Republicans got the White House, too, Paul forced the vote on the exact same legislation.

As Paul described, every Republican voted for repeal under Obama when he could veto it.  But, when Republicans had all three branches and voted on repeal, “We lost seven Republicans.  You may know, because some of them were from Tennessee.”

Paul said he had no doubt that if they were able to have the vote again, “Manny will vote to repeal Obamacare.”

“We need people who will not be a rubber stamp for leadership.  Leadership is not always conservative.  Many of them are the furniture in Washington that occasionally you move around, but they do nothing.”

Paul went on to discuss how he has had to stand against Republicans on the never-ending wars, government spending, borrowing and waste, topics he is particularly passionate about and well known for.

“This primary makes a difference.  You gotta help me bring Manny Sethi to Washington.”

“I’m so glad you came out to support my friend, Manny Sethi.  We need something different.”

Adding that he wasn’t there to condemn the opponent, Paul explained, “We need someone who won’t be a rubber stamp for leadership.  We need someone who will stand on their own two feet to defend the Constitution, to defend your values.”

Paul was encouraging in saying that Sethi had come a long way in the past month from being as much as 20 points down to being even or ahead.

He reminded attendees, “You have much more power than you think,” and urged making phone calls on Sethi’s behalf.

“We’ve got a real shot here.  The country needs this,” said Paul.

“Just having Republicans versus Democrats is not enough, because half of them don’t believe in the Constitution.”

“I would not be here today if I didn’t really believe Manny Sethi was the answer.  Please help me to support my friend, Manny Sethi,” Paul concluded to a cheering crowd.

Jacobs wrapped up the event by saying that a year ago today when the campaign started, he thought Sethi was “a good dude, smart guy, but he hasn’t got a chance.”

“That’s not the case now.  Because of the work this campaign has done, because of all of you, I think he’s got a really good chance. But it is you that is going to push him over the line,” adding specifically that Sethi “needs your vote, needs your support and, yes, he needs your money.”

Sethi and Paul then took questions from the media.

In response to when he decided to support Sethi, Paul told The Star that he had met Manny probably a year prior and had been meeting and talking with him and watching the campaign, before making the public decision a month or two ago.  He wanted someone who is a “sincere conservative.”

The Star then asked Paul if he has been taking a lot of heat from Senate leadership on his endorsement or if people perceive it as him bucking President Trump when he seems to be a strong supporter?

“President Trump and I are really close, and I think President Trump is really going to like Manny.  The night Manny wins, I’ll be on the phone with the president and I guarantee the president will be calling to congratulate Manny,” Paul said. “He knows Manny is a real good supporter.”

“I think more is made of that because I think it happened before Manny really got going in the campaign and they didn’t think there was much going on, Paul added. “I think Manny’s going to be a great supporter of the president, and I’m a good supporter of the president.”

When The Star asked Sethi what it means to him to have Senator Paul’s endorsement, he said, “It’s incredible.”

I’m so grateful that he would take the time.  Senator Paul has been a role model of mine, someone I’ve really always looked up to.  He took on the establishment in 2010 and did something incredible, just pulled off a miracle when they threw everything but the kitchen sink at him and here we are again a decade later and that’s what they’re trying to do to me.  Look, the swamp folks never believed that we could get this far that we could make this race about the people of Tennessee and not just a hand-picked Washington insider option.  That’s why our movement has caught fire.  The conservative movement is behind me, folks like Senator Paul, Senator Cruz, Mark Levin, Senator DeMint. 

It’s just unfortunate that my opponent has resorted to all of these negative attacks and untruths.  But, that’s what the swamp does when their back is against the wall and as Senator Paul said, I think anybody that looks at my record for about 10 seconds, I’ve always been against Obamacare and it’s just an atrocity to put government between a patient and their doctor in the healthcare system.  We’ve got to repeal and replace it.

Also in attendance at the Knoxville townhall were state Representative Justin Lafferty (R-Knoxville) and state Senator Becky Duncan Massey (R-Knoxville), sister of Congressman Duncan.

Sethi, after having a town hall in Elizabethton earlier in the day, went on to town halls in Kingston and Cookeville followed by the Clay County Republican dinner.

The video of the event, made available by Bobby Miles, can be watched here.

– – –

Laura Baigert is a senior reporter at The Tennessee Star.








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Democratic convention speakers span spectrum of US politics

ATLANTA (AP) — Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden insists he can unify a fractured nation, and he’ll test his theory with an unusual nominating convention intended to span the spectrum of U.S. politics.

The Democratic National Convention, a virtual production since the COVID-19 pandemic led party officials to cancel all in-person plans in Milwaukee, will feature presenters from progressive Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to Republican John Kasich, a former Ohio governor who sought the GOP presidential nomination four years ago.

A detailed but incomplete list of speakers released Tuesday also features many of Biden’s 2020 primary rivals, congressional leaders close to the former vice president and several everyday Americans, including some who supported President Donald Trump in 2016.

Party officials and Biden aides describe the agenda as a way to pitch the nominee as a steady, consensus-building figure in contrast with Trump’s turbulent tenure. Yet the unusual format, with just eight hours of prime-time programming spread over four nights from Aug. 17-20, will test Biden’s ability to project a cohesive message to a splintered electorate wrenched by a pandemic, a devastated economy and an ongoing reckoning on systemic racism.

“We had two goals in mind: to include more Americans than ever before and to ensure that all Americans see themselves reflected in what they were viewing,” said Stephanie Cutter, a veteran Democratic strategist who is directing the program for Biden.

Programming is set to be broadcast and streamed online each night from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. EDT.

Attempts at unity and diversity – racial and ethnic, gender and ideological – are apparent in each night’s headliners. Many other details, including who will speak live and whose remarks will be pre-taped, are not finalized. Biden also has not named a keynote speaker, who will be featured Tuesday, the same night Biden will be formally nominated by a pre-recorded roll call vote of the 57 state and territorial delegations.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist who has twice finished as runner-up for the nomination, will appear Monday, the same night as Kasich. Former first lady Michelle Obama and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer also will be featured that night, though Whitmer would move to Wednesday if Biden selected her as his running mate.

Former President Bill Clinton, Ocasio-Cortez and Jill Biden, the nominee’s wife, lead the Tuesday slate, which also includes former acting U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates, who Trump fired early in his administration.

Prominent Democratic women dominate the lineup Wednesday, when the vice presidential nominee will speak.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, both potential vice presidential picks, are named as speakers in their own rights. The list also includes 2016 nominee Hillary Clinton, the first woman to lead a major party ticket in the United States; House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the first woman to hold the gavel on Capitol Hill; and Gabrielle Giffords, the former congresswoman and high-profile advocate for tighter gun restrictions.

Former President Barack Obama, who remains perhaps the party’s most popular figure, also drew a Wednesday time slot.

As with a normal convention, Biden’s acceptance speech will conclude the proceedings Thursday night. He is expected to speak live from his home state of Delaware, though the campaign has not announced a venue.

The warm-up for Biden includes several former rivals and close allies. A quartet of potential running mates have Thursday slots for now: Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth, Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin, California Sen. Kamala Harris and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. Former 2020 presidential hopefuls Pete Buttigieg and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker are on Thursday’s agenda.

Several longtime Biden friends and allies made the cut, as well. Former Secretary of State John Kerry, the 2004 presidential nominee, has a Tuesday spot. South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn, whose endorsement of Biden ahead of the first-in-the-South primary was a turning point in the nominating contest, will appear Monday.

Yet the compressed schedule means there’s not room for every prominent Democrat who would get a share of the spotlight at a traditional convention.

Notable omissions on the list as it stood Tuesday morning: Georgia voting rights advocate Stacey Abrams, who delivered Democrats’ State of the Union response in 2019; Beto O’Rourke, the former Texas congressman who ran for president this year; and two of Biden’s campaign co-chairmen: Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Louisiana Rep. Cedric Richmond.

Time slots became even more finite earlier this week when the Democratic National Committee confirmed the inclusion of rank-and-file voters from around the country. They include a Pennsylvania farmer who voted for Trump in 2016, a pastor from Reno, Nevada, a public transit bus driver from Atlanta and a union auto worker from Michigan.

Questions remain about who gets to speak live and how long presenters will have the spotlight.

Live addresses involve potential technical difficulties, and they introduce unpredictable time elements should a speaker go over the allotted time. That’s a common bug at traditional conventions, when dozens of politicians take an arena stage for hours of programming each evening.

It becomes less manageable, organizers said, with a hybrid production of live and recorded material like what Democrats are attempting to produce. They compared it to recent virtual productions of the NFL Draft, which was a live broadcast that incorporated tape delayed feeds, and NBA star LeBron James’ national high school graduation bonanza, which was taped.

Copyright © 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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