Dr. Manny Sethi says his time traveling Tennessee as part of the health care program he started prompted his run for the Republican nomination to the U.S. Senate, which was announced last week.
Tennessee Republicans gather Saturday for their annual state fundraiser, but question No. 1 among the donors is likely who else will be in the Senate race.
Others such as former Gov. Bill Haslam and Rep. Mark Green may follow.
Dr. Sethi is not a well-known name in Tennessee politics but he’s attracted attention in recent years that goes right to the top.
In early 2017, the Vanderbilt Medical Center trauma surgeon was asked to brief President Trump about Healthy Tennessee. The non-profit billed provides health education, community training and some free medical screenings statewide.
Sethi says what he learned with the program led him to run for Senate.
“I think folks need a voice and that is why I want to do this — and that is over 10 years,” he told News 2 on the day of his Senate announcement. “As I have been traveling, I have been thinking about it.”
Dr. Sethi borrows a phrase from Gov. Bill Lee’s successful Republican run for governor by calling himself “a conservative outsider.”
His passion for changing national healthcare also showed up in his first week of interviews, including a stop on WKRN’s “This Week with Bob Mueller.”
“We have to talk about prevention but we are not doing that right now,” Sethi told News 2’s Bob Mueller last week. “Because with Obamacare, the thought is: You have insurance, so you have health [care], so you have access — but you don’t. So we have to change that. As a doctor in the Senate, I will.”
Tennessee has had a surgeon in the U.S. Senate before. Dr. Bill Frist served from 1995-2007, the last four years as Republican Majority Leader.
Sethi called Frist “a lifelong mentor.”