Dr. Martin “Marty” Olsen pedaled his way through Greeneville Friday, stopping and meeting citizens along the way.
Olsen, the Democratic candidate for the 1st Congressional District seat long held by Republican and fellow physician Phil Roe, said his candidacy represents an opportunity for voters to help implement positive change in Washington.
During a stop in his bicycle tour across part of the district Friday, the 25-year Johnson City-area resident told The Greeneville Sun that he received positive feedback from many people who say it’s time to breathe some fresh air into the halls of Congress.
“We have been received pretty well. People are pretty excited that they have a choice this time,” Olsen said.
Olsen, 59, an obstetrician-gynecologist who practices in a university setting in Johnson City, said he will look for ways to help small businesses, attract larger employers and also work to keep agriculture strong in Greene County.
Compromise rather than “partisan bickering” can go a long way toward addressing many of the pressing issues facing the nation, Olsen said.
“The polarization in national politics is not getting us what we need,” Olsen said. “We need to figure out what we can agree on and and take those steps and stop demonizing the other side.”
Olsen said Greeneville is a good example of a city that could use a boost to help put it on the tourism map.
“We can do better to promote eco-tourism,” he said.
As a doctor, Olsen said providing people with affordable health care options is one focus of his campaign.
“I’m a physician. I take care of patients who have treatable (diseases) but they don’t have insurance so they can’t get a job,” he said. “It’s what I call a vicious cycle.”
Talk last year about dismantling the existing heath care system, denying millions of citizens insurance, is also a primary reason Olsen decided to run for Congress, he said.
“I decided that was wrong and I could do better for my neighbors,” he said.
Addressing the opioid addiction epidemic affecting so many people in Tennessee’s 1st Congressional District is another priority, Olsen said.
His patients include opiate-addicted pregnant women. He provides treatment aimed at reducing the incidence of withdrawal in newborns.
The opioid epidemic demands “a comprehensive plan” that Olsen said he will propose to the the House of Representatives if elected.
“It’s not only a tragedy for families, it’s a tragedy for each community,” he said.
For issues such as gun control, Olsen said laws are already on the books that could be applied more rigorously without enacting new legislation.
“I’m a big believer in enforcing the laws that we already have,” he said.
Olsen, whose family includes several teachers, is also an advocate for quality education and support of public schools.
Olsen advocates what he terms “Responsible Change.”
The changes that have happened since the inauguration of President Donald Trump are “chaotic and poorly directed,” according to Olsen’s website, olsenforcongress.com.
“There is a difference between change that moves a nation forward and change that destroys institutions, relationships and personal futures without regard to the impact on all of us,” he wrote. “Responsible Change is a course of well thought-out, planned, incremental transformation.”
Olsen said Friday that he is optimistic about unseating longtime incumbent Roe from his Congressional seat.
“We’re doing very well. It’s been a district that has been a Republican district so long Democrats have given up on the district, so this is a year where that feeling isn’t really present,” Olsen said. “I’m pretty enthused about the reception because people have a choice.”
Olsen said he was a political independent for 25 years before aligning with the Democratic Party.
“I just won’t blindly follow the balance of power and do what I’m told,” he said. “(Roe) promised five terms and now he’s running for number six. I think 10 years is enough. I think it is time for a fresh voice.”
Greene County played a role in Olsen’s decision to locate to this area. He said when he was a young medical resident in Chattanooga, he was driving on Interstate 81 when his car broke down near Exit 23.
“This nice farmer took me into town to find somebody to take care of my car. When I got a job in this area I knew there were really nice people here,” Olsen said Friday. “My first introduction to Northeast Tennessee was Greeneville and it was a really positive thing.”