Roe courts Eastman vote in visit to Kingsport plant

Hank Hayes • Jun 20, 2008 at 12:00 AM

Phil Roe talks with Bill Hayner Friday at the "Politics at Lunch" event held in the Toy F. Reid Employee Center. David Grace photo.


KINGSPORT — First Congressional District GOP challenger Phil Roe touted his skills as a fiscal hawk while courting “The Eastman” vote on Friday.

“I have brought a very simple philosophy to government which is what each of you bring to your own lives — spend less than you take in. It’s not a difficult concept,” Roe, Johnson City’s mayor, told more than 150 Eastman Chemical employees and retirees during a “Politics At Lunch” event at the company’s employee center.

Roe pointed out that on his watch at City Hall, there’s been no property tax increases, while municipal coffers now have more than $21 million in reserves.

“We have a small, lean government,” he said. “We have less employees now than we did five years ago. We have a more efficient organization. ... We’re doing this while growing infrastructure. ... (The City Commission) voted last night to put $100 million into the ground in water, sewer and roads.”

Roe said he understands regionalism, praised Eastman’s $1.3 billion reinvestment project, and indicated corporate tax rate reduction is needed to keep employers from moving jobs overseas.

He also said “one of the disappointments in this current administration” is its inattention to illegal immigration.

“People will tell you that a fence (at the U.S. southern border) won’t work,” said Roe, a U.S. Army veteran who served in Korea. “I’m here to tell you that I stood next to a fence in Korea, and I will promise you it does work.”

Roe said he also favors instant verification of worker status to identify illegal immigrants.

“You can take your credit card and walk up to the Southwest Airlines desk, put it in, and it will tell you who you are, when your flight is leaving, and where you’re going to get on the airplane,” he said. “We can do that for our folks visiting who are guest workers. We have to do it legally.”

Roe said Congress should insist that English is the language of this country or “we’ll end up being a Balkanized country.”

On the U.S. military’s presence in Iraq, Roe did not favor a quick exit.

“I think that would be the wrong thing to do. But we need to insist that the Iraqis take on more responsibility,” he told employees and retirees. “If we’re going to be the world’s policeman, we have to expand the military.”

Roe pledged to work hard on Eastman’s behalf but reiterated his commitment to not take money from political action committees (PACs).

“I do not want people to think that my vote has been influenced by money,” he explained.

Year to date, Eastman’s PAC has disbursed more than $71,000 to various political campaigns, according to the Federal Election Commission.

The Eastman luncheon is part of the company’s effort to encourage its workers to be more aware of public policy. Roe’s August Republican primary opponent, incumbent GOP U.S. Rep. David Davis, is scheduled to hold a similar event at Eastman next month.

For more about Roe go to www.roe4congress.com.

For more about Davis go to www.rightforcongress.com.

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