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Johnson City Press: Democrat pushes for health care reform in Senate race

Johnson City Press: Democrat pushes for health care reform in Senate race

By Robert Houk

Johnson City Press

July 16, 2020

James Mackler said Wednesday if he wins his party’s nomination for the U.S. Senate, he will definitely not be a “rubber-stamp” for President Donald Trump and his policies.

Mackler, a Nashville attorney, is one of five Democratic candidates on Aug. 6 ballot running for the seat that will be vacated by U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, a Republican who is not seeking re-election in November.

Meanwhile, the GOP field for the Senate includes 15 candidates. Mackler said the two front-runners in the Republican race — former Trump ambassador to Japan, Bill Hagerty, and Dr Manny Sethi, a Nashville surgeon — have both “promised to be a blank check for the the president.”

Mackler also said his Republican counterparts are “putting people at risk” at their campaign events by not wearing masks.

“Good leaders need to look after the people they serve,” Mackler said. “They need to listen to what the experts are saying. We live in a community. When I was in the Army, we looked out for one another.”

Mackler is a former Army helicopter pilot who joined the service after the 9/11 attacks, and was deployed with the 101st Airborne Division to Iraq as part of his decade in active duty.

Mackler, who has been on the campaign trail for more than a year, said his campaign has shifted its strategy to cope with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

He said that while he is still meeting with Tennesseans when it is safe to do so, he’s doing much of it via virtual town halls like the one he conducted on Facebook earlier this week with the Washington County Democratic Party.

“The adjustments we’ve made are minor compared to that of the essential workers, EMS and first-responders, who have had to make real adjustments,” Mackler said.

Mackler said he made reforming the nation’s health care system a top priority long before the COVID-19 pandemic, which he says has been a “perfect storm” in terms of battering the economy while straining local hospitals. The Democrat said he would address the problem of Tennessee leading the nation in the number of rural hospital closures if elected to the Senate.

He said he would work to reduce the cost of prescription drugs, expand Medicaid in Tennessee, stabilize the health care exchanges to bring down costs and protect people with pre-existing health conditions, who could lose their medical insurance if Trump is successful in overturning the Affordable Care Act.

Mackler also said he would work to reform campaign finance laws to remove corporate donations from the process.

“Our political system is broken by the role dark money plays,” he said.