As we marked the anniversary of the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, it seems like a very good time to ask some public questions of incumbent congressman Rep. Tim Burchett. He has declared he’s running for reelection, and I have started a campaign to be the Democratic Party nominee challenging him. So let me put out some questions for Burchett that others also should feel free to ask him.
Question No. 1
Are you vaccinated against COVID-19? No one seeking public office should evade this question or claim it’s a private matter. Elected public figures engage with the public and shouldn’t be a health risk to them. I’m vaccinated, boosted and wear a mask in crowded indoor settings. What’s your policy, Tim? You certainly sent a dubious signal when you bragged about sponsoring a bill to make it easier for essential workers (including first responders, doctors and nurses) to be unvaccinated as they tend to our emergency needs.
Question No. 2
Speaking of public events, why have you skewed your forums or town halls largely to avoid Knoxville? Certainly, all parts of the district deserve attention, but you seem to be ducking the biggest city in it. Perhaps you recall that you lost the city vote in your last two election cycles and are ducking tough questions from disaffected constituents.
Question No. 3
Speaking of ducking, will you commit to debating your opponent this fall? As the one seeking to be that opponent, let me suggest at least two televised debates, perhaps one in a town-hall format. Voters deserve debates well before they go to the polls on Nov. 8.
Question No. 4
In the lead-up to, during and immediately after the Jan. 6, 2021, attempted coup, did you have any contact with individual insurrectionists, groups of them, group leaders or insurrection-adjacent members of Congress of the Trump administration? If the answer is no, why have you twice voted against investigations of the uprising?
Burchett’s record on the insurrection is particularly appalling. Just hours after rioters invaded our Capitol and attacked police, Burchett voted to give the insurrectionists the truth-denying vote they wanted.
Question No. 5
You voted against the bipartisan infrastructure bill. Then you tried to justify your vote by characterizing the environmental provisions as “woke environmental policies in big Democrat cities.” In light of the failed effort by local Republicans to unseat five City Council members, do you consider Knoxville a “Democrat city,” and are you thus not concerned about its infrastructure or environmental needs?
I’ve found dozens of other terrible Burchett votes and listed them on my campaign website (markharmonforcongress.com). Readers should feel free to use those as a resource for questioning our congressman on his extremist record.
Mark Harmon is a professor of journalism and electronic media at the University of Tennessee, and a Democratic candidate for Congress in Tennessee’s 2nd District.