MURFREESBORO, Tennessee –Dr. Manny Sethi was the clear favorite as the candidate for U.S. Senate at the Conservative Caucus held Saturday in Murfreesboro.
The unofficial vote came through the applause and cheers of the audience, as one of the event organizers Representative Bruce Griffey held his hand above the heads of the four candidates who had just participated in about an hour-long candidate Q&A session.
Dr. Manny participated in the session along with fellow Republican primary candidates Dr. Byron Bush, Jon Henry and Roy Dale Cope. Despite the initial planning for the event beginning three months prior in April, Bill Hagerty was unable to attend due to a scheduling conflict and George Flinn dropped out about five days prior to the event.
The U.S. Senate candidate Q&A session was the main feature for the morning portion of the full-day event.
The session was moderated by Matthew Nowlin, who founded Conservative Christians of Tennessee in 2017 and hosts the “Faith in Action” show on Bott Radio Memphis along with Pastor, former military intelligence agent and syndicated talk radio host Steven Solomon.
Each candidate was given two minutes for opening remarks prior to the question and answer period. At the start time, Dr. Manny had not yet arrived, so the session went on without him with Bush and Henry participating.
All of the candidates were given an opportunity to answer the same question, so that their responses could be compared. The text below is a snapshot of each of the candidate’s response and is not intended to represent their entire answer.
Opening Remarks of two minutes
Bush is a Nashville dentist, who ran for office 25 years ago on a platform of “Break the Cycle” of too many taxes and too much spending and is currently speaking out against judicial corruption. He met event attendees outside the meeting room, introducing himself and handing out a two-sided flyer addressing his five-part call for greater accountability for all government officers as well as pointing out a few things about opponents Hagerty and Sethi and posing questions worth asking each of the candidates.
In a professional and commanding way, Bush said that we stand for the flag, so we kneel at the cross. His message is that truth matters. The truth matters because of him.
Henry grew up on a tobacco farm in middle Tennessee and served more than 27 years in the United States Marine Corps, retiring as a Sargent Major.
With a noticeable amount of energy, Henry came to the microphone saying, “I just found out there’s 14 other candidates!” He said that growing up on a tobacco farm means a lot of hard work and not a lot of money. He was in the Marine Corps for 27 ½ years. The core values of his life were found on that small farm. As Senator, he would support the President and bring back small town America, concluding with the Marine battle cry, “Oorah!”
Question 1. Do you believe police brutality is an issue, and if so, how can we properly address it?
Bush responded that there are isolated incidences, referencing the incident with George Floyd that “moved every one of us,” like any instance of public officials who disregard the law. He did not think it is a systemic problem.
Henry said that there are a lot of people who serve short terms in the military who then join law enforcement. His simple answer was no. “This is about the corrupt media that sets the narrative.”
Question 2. What should be the federal response towards groups like Black Lives Matter (BLM) and ANTIFA, which have been rioting and looting across America, and setting up lawless zones such as CHOP in Seattle?
Henry said we need to get the definitions right. Terrorism is a political or religious ideology that will take any means, including lives. The media is making BLM larger than it is.
Bush said that All Lives Matter because we’re all made in the image of God and equal in his sight. He said to go to the BLM website and see who they are and the money they gave to candidates.
Question 3. Intelligence shows that China knew about COVID-19 and didn’t alert the world. Should the U.S. retaliate against China in response and what retaliation would be appropriate?
Bush said he practiced dentistry for 43 years within 6 to 12 inches of a mouth, so he can relate. He alluded to the shutdown, reopening and having to shut down his practice again because of the COVID-19 cases. He said President Trump took quick action with the World Health Organization. He didn’t feel that war should be started over it, and that PPE manufacturing had to be moved back to the U.S.
Henry said we had to be careful because farmers ship bushels of grain around the world. Bringing jobs back to America reduces reliance on China and that will get their attention.
Question 4. What do you believe America and specifically Tennessee need to be doing to address COVID-19?
Henry said if the media hadn’t blown this up, we would have never had to shut down. He asked if we even know how many cases there are and posed that even if there were 1.5 million, it would only be 1.5 percent. In that case, would we have had to shut down, and at what other time have we done that?
Bush responded that on November 4, or shortly thereafter, if Joe Biden wins COVID-19 will be cured. If President Trump wins, and Bush believes he will and will fight for him, we may still have a battle on our hands. He called the media agenda-driven.
Question 5. Should there be term limits for Supreme Court Justices? Why or why not?
Bush said that’s a tough question and that there would have to be a movement for that and that President Trump would need to get conservatives to replace the activist judges he’s been talking about.
Henry said a lot more should have term limits. He absolutely believes justices should have term limits.
Question 6. When does life begin and should abortion be legal and, if so, under what circumstances?
Henry confessed that when he was young, he thought life began at a heartbeat. He learned when he had children that life began at conception and that there’s just three weeks between conception and a heartbeat.
Bush said that life begins at conception but many forms of birth control including the pill and IUD allow conception, something he struggles with. He said it was a tough dilemma and not intended to be wishy-washy. He is a supporter of a heartbeat, which defines the end of life, as the start of life.
Question 7. Republicans have voiced concerns about the fairness of elections and the Democrats’ efforts to implement vote-by-mail as a recipe for fraud. Should Congress impose nation standards or voter ID provisions for national elections? What, if anything, should be done?
Bush said absolutely an ID should be required and he opposes mail efforts. Rather than haggling with the opposing side, Bush said we need to stand firm. He said this is an issue we night to fight vigorously because it is rampant with fraud.
Henry said that Congress can’t fix it, because who wants it? Democrats, he said. Being from the military, Henry said he is a big fan of absentee voting, where he has to request the ballot and his registration is verified.
Question 8. What do you feel the role of government is in education, and what is the best way to improve education?
Henry responded with No Child Left Behind and asked if you have seen what that and ESSA has created. He thought Tennessee should be legislating what classes are taught.
Bush said the federal government’s role in education is to support the states, using the words indoctrination and agenda when it comes to education. He said the states need to get back to reading, writing, arithmetic and real, not revisionist history.
Question 9. The Supreme Court recently ruled that states cannot deny education funding to schools that are religious in nature. Do you believe this decision is correct, and if so, what steps will you take to ensure that education funds are not withheld from religious institutions?
Bush believes the money should follow the child, but there is a need to guard against federal mandates about how the money gets spent. With his wife being from Michigan, he expressed concern about the money going to Muslim schools and said there’s not an easy answer.
Henry asked, “Isn’t it incredible that we’re having this conversation?”
At that point, Sethi arrived to cheers from the audience. Cope, although not invited to participate in the private event, had managed to get a seat during the session as well and both were afforded the opportunity for their two-minute opening remarks.
Sethi said he loves this country very much. Both his parents came here legally and when he lost his father, he became a Christian. He said we need a true conservative to take on the mob that has been rioting and looting in the streets. “I need your help.”
Cope said that as a commissioned officer in the Navy, he took an oath. He is a pharmacist with a diverse background in business, having poured two million square feet of concrete. He said he is sick of Medicare patients being disenfranchised at the pharmacy counter, and that he can and will do something about it. He said he is not tied to anything and will do what’s right for Tennessee. He added that God is the author of all, that the Second Amendment shall not be infringed and no nation will be secure without a border, before finally being cut off after several attempts for running over the time limit.
Question 10. Should governments be able to impose immunizations or vaccines on the population? Do you support an individual’s right to refuse a vaccination, and parents’ rights to refuse to vaccinate their children?
Cope paused and said, “God forgive me. HELL NO.” He added, no, government does not have a right to impose that. He said to go to the CDC website and look at the EUA from FDA because we’re being tested for COVID-19 with the flu vaccine.
Henry said a woman approached him at the Smith County Fair to inform him about vaccines and said that parents don’t have the information they should when making that decision.
Sethi said he believes in the God-given right to make a choice. As a physician, he is concerned about the speed of the vaccine progression from phase one to phase three and that the drug companies have been given waivers.
Bush said he is also a doctor and that we are being programmed slowly but gradually with masks, immunizations with a chip and staying six feet apart which is far enough so they can tell everything about you. He said the chip will have to be forced, because it won’t come any other way.
Question 11. E-verify is the federal work verification program that ensures employees are legally able to work in the United States. It is largely leg to individual States to implement the program as they see fit. Should E-verify be the law of the law for all US employers? And if not E-verify, then what, if anything?
Henry said that as a farmer, it should be taken on a case-by-case basis. In the San Joaquin Valley workers come in and go out, come in and go out on work permits. He said it could be a slippery slope for real workers.
Sethi said E-verify is illegal immigration and that he is a child of legal immigrants who stood in line and waited their turn. He said we need the wall, to fix immigration and end birthright citizenship, saying it’s not right and it’s not fair.
Bush said that with computers, there’s no reason we can’t track and know when the workers are supposed to leave. The first act of those coming into the country should not be illegal.
Cope said absolutely E-verify should be all for one and one for all. Those coming into the country farming should be protected, but they wouldn’t be imposing on financial support and would be paying taxes. He supports E-verify 100 percent.
Question 12. How would you address the migration of America’s manufacturing jobs to foreign cheap labor countries such as Mexico and China? Is there legislation you would sponsor or support to bring jobs back to America?
Sethi said he lives on the front lines of the pandemic and sees that we are too reliant on communist China, having been sold out by Washington Republicans. He called it a national security issue and said we need a second industrial revolution. He called for 1. Tax exemptions or credits for moving back; 2. Paying for the freight to get machinery and technology back; and 3. Deregulation. He said that for masks made in China there are just two regulations, while U.S.-made masks have 10.
Bush said medical and military are essential and that anything essential needs to be made here. Made in China means we are dependent on China. When it comes to our military or security, Bush said we cannot be dependent on foreign or aggressive nations.
Cope said regulation has caused a big part of this. President Trump is doing the right thing in cutting red tape that costs extra money. Companies that don’t want to return need to pay a tariff, Cope said.
Henry said that in Hartsville, this is nothing new for them because they had those factories and that’s the reason he’s in the Senate race.
Question 13 was related to social media giants Facebook and Twitter, their censorship, legal protections and whether they need to be regulated.
Bush said he was censored with his ads because of a complaint from another campaign and it took two months to resolve. He said they have two much power and need to be regulated in some way.
Cope said the protections should be withdrawn and that they cannot have that kind of control. He has been and is still being censored. Facebook sat on his affidavit for a political campaign for weeks. He said they have too much power and need to be held liable.
Henry said that he doesn’t have a big campaign manager to tell him what to say and that as a Marine he fought for the First Amendment. “I’m a Marine and it means I got to tell you the truth,” said Henry.
Sethi gave examples of posts and asked if they are freedom of speech. He said that some things have been said on-line about him and his family that are just awful. He felt Facebook and Twitter need to be taken head on.
Question 14. What foreign aid projects do you think are worth taxpayer funding and what should be defunded? Also are there any domestic projects you would like to see funded using the foreign aid money?
Cope said there should be continued support for Israel and that we need to get out of Afghanistan and the funding should be used for adequate healthcare including hospital emergency rooms.
Henry said that having been there, nothing had changed after leaving overseas except the spending of billions of dollars. He said we should get out of Afghanistan and put that money into education. At this point, Henry said, education needs to be fixed and the money should go back to the states to let us run it.
Sethi said we should stop sending money to countries around the world who hate our guts. “How about that?” he asked. In terms of new spending, we have a $26 trillion debt that is up to $75,000 per child. He said we need to cut spending, have a balanced budget amendment and he supports the penny plan. When money is being sent to countries like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia who literally hate our guts, he said we have to stop that.
Bush said that we should first deal with infrastructure. When he ran for this office 25 years ago, his campaign theme was “Break the cycle” of spending and higher taxes. He has found that no matter how much government raises in taxes, they will always spend more. With $26 trillion in debt, he said at some point, the dollar won’t be worth the paper it is printed on.
Question 15. There is an element in the United States and abroad that wishes to promote Sharia law and Islamic traditions in the United States. What should be the response from the Federal government to that and are Islam and Islamic law compatible with the U.S. Constitution and western values?
Henry said they absolutely are not. As someone who has been there with them and saw the fear in their eyes, how they are treated day in and day out and in trying to break that trend, it is not compatible with any of our Christian values. He said that’s the reason he is running, because foreign policy in these United States is our business.
Sethi said he comes to the question with a little bit of bias, because his parents’ homes were burned to the ground by Islamic radicals when they were children. Islamic radicalism is still one of the single greatest threats we face in our country and the world, he said, and that’s why we have to support Israel.
Bush said that if this country had been founded on Sharia law or Islamic principles, it would not be what it is today. America is what it is because it was founded on Judeo-Christian beliefs. He said they want to escape where they came from and implement it here. He said we need to differentiate between a religion and a political movement and guard against that.
Cope responded, “One nation, under God, indivisible.” If we got to Sharia, we wouldn’t be under God. We’re where we are today because of God, he said.
Question 16. The 14th Amendment provides all persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof are citizens of the United States in the state they reside. What is your position with regards to the citizenship of the children that are born to persons illegally in the United States or who come here on a temporary visa and give birth to a child while in the United States known as birth tourism? Should these kids automatically become U.S. citizens? Why or why not?
Sethi said the answer is no, that his parents stood in line to legally immigrate. Birthright citizenship has got to end. Illegal immigrants are not citizens of this country, so it’s not applicable, he said. Traveling across the states, he hears from the good people who follow the laws, and asked how can we allow this? He will take on the mob and won’t back down.
Bush said if you break into a bank, steal the money, and get caught, you don’t get to keep it. If you cross the border illegally and have a baby five minutes later, the child is a child of God, but an illegal child in the U.S., he said. Birthright citizenship doesn’t apply to ambassadors and delegates from the U.N. There needs to be Supreme Court justices with common sense to make that decision, Bush said.
Cope said Americans are the most gracious people on the face of the earth, but you can’t steal from us by crossing the border, having a child, the child becomes a citizen and the parent does, too. He called that stealing and said the Ten Commandments are all about stealing. We must put a stop to it, he said.
Henry said that in Yuma, Arizona he took a Marine to the hospital who was hurt during a training exercise. There were four or five ladies sitting on the floor pregnant, he said, adding that was why they were there. He called birthright citizenship silly and said common sense must be used.
Question 17. There is a substantial amount of money that leaves the United States that has been earned by illegal immigrants or individuals without proper identification. Would you support legislation to end the possibility of that?
Bush said absolutely. With all of the spending and the $26 trillion in debt, there will be a day of reckoning. The system cannot go on forever, he said, and we need to get aggressive.
Cope said yes that he supports legislation to keep the money here or allows taxation of it.
Henry said it is truly a common sense question and as a farmer he knows that a lot of money gets sent back to Mexico. If they are working toward becoming a citizen, he could not support that. It’s important to look at how they are living and working, he said, especially those who serve in the military who would be taxed as service members.
Sethi said that whether undocumented or illegal, there should be something done about sending money out of the country. He said we have a real problem with methamphetamine and fentanyl and it’s happening because of all of the money that goes back to Mexico and Central America. Stopping that will stop the flow of these drugs, the doctor said.
Closing Comments were in alphabetical order
Bush said he knows some have made up their minds and that’s okay. He asked that no matter who you support whether on the stage or not, take a second look to see what they stood for and who is a fighter and whether he has the backbone to stand on their own, should Donald Trump not be re-elected. Bush said he is the only candidate with a record of voting, representing Tennesseans at two national conventions and serving on the national platform committee, and having run for office 25 years ago. “It matters then and it matters now because you’re more than matter, and you matter because of Him. Remember that it matters when you pull that lever.”
Cope said, “My fellow Tennesseans we are in an epic war.” A war, he said, between the forces of good and evil. He said our President cannot be the only one to stand up there and fight for us and that there are not enough Senators or House of Representatives people standing up and fighting with him. He believes Donald Trump is anointed by God to lead this country. He is the one to go there, he said, because he has the grit to stand up and call them out when they’re not working for the people. “I will work for you. I will fight for you. This is a time when we need a warrior.”
Henry said this was the greatest pleasure he could imagine. He liked Cope’s warrior part. He said, “I don’t have millions of dollars, but every single day, I wear my work boots, take a million steps and shake a million hands.” He encouraged looking through the fog of the money and campaign managers. He answers all questions and will answer all questions on his website. “I’ll continue to FIGHT, because that’s all I’ve ever known. My passion is to fight.” He says he’s ready to help Donald Trump. “Who do you want on your side? Make it a United States Marine. Oorah!”
Sethi said everything he has done in his life is because of his faith in Jesus Christ, becoming a doctor, trauma surgeon and starting a non-profit to make a difference and that’s why he’s running for United States Senate. He told attendees, “You are faced with a monumental decision in the next couple of weeks about who are going to choose to be your next U.S. Senator. On the one hand, you have the Washington and Tennessee Republican establishment hand-picked person who couldn’t even show up to talk to you today. Then you’ve got someone like me, a conservative outsider who has given his life to serve the people of this state.” He said forty years ago just down the road, the people of Coffee County gave two immigrants from India a chance, opening their doors to two doctors. He and his brother became doctors, and now he is running for U.S. Senate, showing the power of America and the American story when he has never run for any office. Asking for the vote, he said let’s finally take on the Tennessee Republican establishment and the Washington establishment to take on the Chinese communist government, take on the mob, repeal and replace Obamacare and finally fix the broken immigration system.
Griffey took to the stage and, after thanking all of the candidates for their participation, assembled them together to take the informal vote by cheering for the candidate they thought would be best for leading the state. While Jon Henry and Bush received a very good response, Sethi clearly received the loudest support.
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Laura Baigert is a senior reporter at The Tennessee Star.