Rep.-elect Diana Harshbarger was the first person in her family to graduate high school and she went to become a pharmacist and business owner.
When Harshbarger set her sights on Congress this year, the first-time candidate again defied the odds and became the first woman elected to a full term to represent Tennessee‘s 1st Congressional District.
Now Harshbarger, 60, wants to bring a business-minded approach to Congress and is impressed with the record-breaking number of GOP colleagues she’ll have at her side to press a conservative agenda.
“I don’t think Congress is any match for a woman who can multitask,” said Harshbarger, recalling her juggling act of having a baby, working and attending college that was foundational to her pharmacy business success.
Two years ago, the Democrats’ blue wave ushered in a historic number of women representatives. Women held 101 seats in the House, but just 13 were Republican. But thanks to the 2020 class, that GOP figure is set to double to at least 28 Republican women.
“It’s exciting to see the freshman class coming in,” Harshbarger told Fox News. “There’s the greatest number of women that will be in this class than they ever have had on the Republican side. And they are genuine about what they want to do. They want to work for this country and that impresses me.”
Harshbarger and her pharmacist husband, Robert, own and operate a pharmacy in their hometown of Kingsport. They have one son and two grandsons.
Harshbarger had no political experience before launching her congressional run in the heavily Republican east Tennessee district to succeed the retiring Republican Dr. Phil Roe. The biggest challenge was the primary with 16 contenders for the job. She put in more than $1 million of personal funds to the campaign. Harshbarger ran as a pro-President Trump conservative outsider who could give Washington a “dose of the right medicine.”
Harshbarger draws parallels between how Trump shook up Washington and herself.
“He was an outsider and that’s the same way that I am,” she said. “I am a business owner. I’m an outsider. I’ve never been in the political arena. And there’s attributes you can bring to Congress. … Just because things have been done the same way for decades doesn’t mean … you have to continue to do it that way.”
Harshbarger wants to use her health care background to help Republicans counter Democrats’ Medicare-for-all narrative. She frames the decision as one-size-fits-all “socialized medicine” versus “personalized” medicine where families can make individualized decisions.
“I think most of the population in our country would choose personalized,” she said.
Harshbarger will join the congressional doctor’s caucus. She wants to work on drug-pricing transparency and bringing the manufacturing of pharmaceuticals back to the United States. She hopes the global coronavirus pandemic has forced politicians to “wake” up to the importance of American-made supplies.
Tennessee’s 1st district runs from Bristol Motor Speedway all the way south to Dollywood. The coronavirus pandemic also further exposed the “not acceptable” disparity of broadband access in America, she said, where rural parents have to drive to a Walmart or McDonald’s parking lot just to get Internet to download their children’s school lessons.
In addition to her health care priorities, Harshbarger wants to prioritize economic development, bridging the digital divide and reopening schools.
“They just want good jobs, and they want broadband,” Harshbarger said of her constituents.