Tennessee Republican US Rep. Phil Roe says he will retire

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JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee Republican U.S. Rep. Phil Roe announced Friday that he will retire at the end of the 116th Congress.

The 74-year-old called representing East Tennesseans in Congress for the past 11 years “the honor of my life” and said he always intended to serve five or six terms because he didn't want to make it a second career. He practiced medicine for more than 30 years before being elected.

Roe is among more than two dozen Republican House members who have decided not to seek reelection next year.

The open seat in Roe's Republican-leaning district is likely to draw quick interest from others within his party. Some GOP names being floated as possible candidates include state Reps. David Hawk, Jeremy Faison and Timothy Hill; state Sen. Jon Lundberg; former Kingsport Mayor John Clark; and pharmacist Diana Harshbarger.

Roe, who is the top-ranking Republican on the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, said he's proud the panel has achieved the goals he set for it, including increasing access to care and bringing true accountability to the department.

“I’ll leave Congress at the end of the year knowing that our nation’s heroes are better served today because of our work,” he said. “I am still hopeful that, before the 116th Congress adjourns, we will pass important reforms that improve outreach to veterans in crisis to address the suicide epidemic.”

Roe emerged from a health scare after he was diagnosed with and treated for early-stage prostate cancer in 2017. Weeks later, his office said he was cancer-free.

He said he ran for Congress hoping that his experience as a practicing physician could have a positive impact on health care policy. He has been an opponent of former President Barack Obama's health care law.

“The Affordable Care Act was signed into law during my first term, and much of my time was spent trying to undo some of the harm that was done to the patient-centered health care model as a result," he said.

Roe said he also led colleagues to improve Medicare and authored legislation that increased the availability of epinephrine in schools for those who suffer from deadly food allergies.

“The challenges we are facing now are as complex as ever, and I still have a lot of fire in my belly," Roe said. “I look forward to finishing my term strongly for the East Tennesseans that I love representing and working with President Trump in favor of the free-market, conservative policies so many of us hold dear.”

Roe's announcement makes him the first U.S. House member in Tennessee this election cycle to opt against seeking reelection. Tennessee has seven Republicans and two Democrats in the House.

Republican U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee has also announced he will retire at the end of his term, prompting several challengers to jump into the race to succeed him.

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