Manny Sethi, former Republican U.S. Senate candidate, will not run for Congress

Nov 19, 2021


Manny Sethi, a Nashville doctor and former Republican U.S. Senate candidate, announced this week he will not run for Congress in 2022.

"After faithful deliberation, my path leads me to family and patients who need care, especially those impacted by the unprecedented pandemic," he wrote in an opinion piece submitted to The Tennessean.

Sethi, a Nashville trauma surgeon and founder of preventative health nonprofit Healthy Tennessee, lost to U.S. Sen. Bill Hagerty by 12 points in the 2020 primary. He received endorsements from U.S. Sens Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Rand Paul, R-Kentucky. 

If Sethi decided to run, the 5th Congressional district resident would likely face Robby Starbuck — a Franklin Republican who was endorsed by Paul — and Nashville businessman Quincy McKnight in the Republican primary.

OPINION: Nashville needs a conservative Republican to fight for citizens in Congress

The seat is currently held by U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Nashville, who is challenged by Democrat Odessa Kelly, founder of Stand Up Nashville. 

Sethi said he decided not to run for Congress this year despite a lot of "encouragement" from supporters, because he wants to take care of his patients, as well as his two children, ages 6 and 8. 

"I really wrestled with the decision," he said. "I was gone for two years going to 95 counties three times, and that really took a toll on (the kids)."

However, he did not dismiss the idea of running again in the future.

"That's not to say I won't ever do it. I probably will, but I just think that God is not calling me to do it at this moment," he said.

Sethi, who campaigned as a conservative outsider, launched his Senate bid in 2019 on a platform of three initiatives: replacing the Affordable Care Act, addressing the immigration crisis along the country's southern border and fighting the opioid epidemic.

Touting his conservative beliefs, the Nashville Republican also prided himself in his anti-abortion stance and support for lower national debt and limited spending. He supported former President Donald Trump, although Trump endorsed Hagerty — who fundraised for him and served as former ambassador to Japan under his administration — for the Senate seat.

In his opinion piece, Sethi slammed President Joe Biden's administration over its decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, the surge in border crossings and federal vaccine mandates.

"In short, this administration is off the rails with endless mandates, international gaffes, and overall incompetence," he wrote.

Sethi drew controversy last year after criticizing Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and defending the use of hydroxychloroquine to cure COVID-19. He said he saw the drug saving a fellow orthopaedic surgeon's life but also said he wasn't sure of the drug's efficacy.

No evidence shows a strong efficacy of the drug in treating COVID-19, and the Food and Drug Administration last year revoked authorization for such treatment after finding "serious heart rhythm problems and other safety issues" linked to the treatment.

When prompted in an interview with The Tennessean, Sethi said Wednesday he believes science is evolving and the nation needs more studies and data instead of believing the talking points on TV. 

He stressed that he believes in the efficacy of masks and COVID-19 vaccines, but stands against mandates. 

Sethi said the 5th Congressional district needs to be represented by a conservative Republican who is not part of the establishment. He said he hopes that person's policies align with Trump's ideologies.

The district has remained a Democratic stronghold, but district boundaries could change after the ongoing redistricting process controlled by Tennessee lawmakers. Republicans, who hold a supermajority in the legislature, have not ruled out dividing up Nashville to dilute Democratic votes.

"I do think that President Trump's policies of limited government, less taxation, less regulation, foreign policy that puts Americans first," he said. "I do think that person, whoever that may be, will be a great candidate." 

Reach Yue Stella Yu at yyu@tennessean.com. Follow her on Twitter at @bystellayu_tnsn.

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