Dr. Manny Sethi

Dr. Manny Sethi talks to a crowd at the Bluetick Tavern on Tuesday while campaigning for Lamar Alexander’s senate seat.

Dr. Manny Sethi, one of 10 candidates running for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Maryville native Lamar Alexander, spent Tuesday afternoon in Blount County fielding questions from the public and calling himself the “product of the American dream.”

Sethi and his campaign team toured the Blount County Courthouse with County Mayor Ed Mitchell before hosting a meet-and-greet at Bluetick Tavern.

Nearly 30 people, including Blount County Sheriff James Berrong, gathered around pizza and soft drinks as Sethi discussed three issues: illegal immigration, the opioid crisis and health care.

Sethi, an orthopedic trauma surgeon at Vanderbilt Medical Center, was born in rural Coffee County. Both his parents immigrated to the United States from India.

Sethi said he bases his immigration belief — that the government should focus first on its own citizens — off of his parents, whom he said worked hard to come to the United States.

“As a Christian and someone who has been traveling the state of Tennessee, there are people who are hurting beyond belief, without health care, without basic amenities,” Sethi said. “I would just argue that the Christian thing to do is maybe to help them. They’re our neighbor before anyone else.”

Sethi also voiced his support for faith-based treatment centers to fight the opioid crisis in Tennessee.

“Right now we have this one-size-fits-all federal answer where they’re giving states money but are not empowering local communities,” he said.

Sethi said he’s traveled across the state for the past year, visiting faith-based treatment centers and believes the government should fund such centers.

“We’re putting so much money into medical-assisted treatment when the recidivism rates are so high,” he said. “But you look at faith-based programs and the data is starting to come out and we see that it’s very effective.”

The majority of the meet-and-greet, however, focused on Sethi’s area of expertise: health care.

He and his wife, Maya, founded Healthy Tennessee, a nonprofit organization that hosts “preventative health screening events and statewide health symposiums in partnership with other organizations and local officials in order to enhance awareness and promote a healthier Tennessee,” according the organization’s website.

In 2016, Sethi and other Healthy Tennessee employees were invited to meet with President Donald Trump in Washington to report on the organization’s findings and progress.

Despite this meeting, Trump endorsed Bill Hagerty, former United States Ambassador to Japan, shortly after Hagerty announced his campaign for Senate in July.

Sethi, who announced his campaign in June, has reported raising a total of $2,909,057.77 with more than $1.5 million coming from personal loans.

Hagerty has reported campaign contributions totaling $3,409,846.70 — all from individual and committee contributors, according to the Federal Election Commission.

Tennessee will vote for senator in the primary election Aug. 6 and in the general election Nov. 3.

The deadline to register to vote for these elections is July 7 and Oct. 5, respectively.

Follow @sshreports on Twitter for more from reporter Shelby Harris.

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