KINGSPORT, TN (WJHL) – A man who once was a front-runner in the last presidential campaign visited the Tri-Cities Monday.
Former presidential candidate Jeb Bush was in Kingsport speaking to a group of healthcare and community leaders.
Bush was the guest of Mountain States Health Alliance, which hosted a leadership training event at the MeadowView Convention Center.
He’s been out of the spotlight since last February when he ended his campaign after a disappointing showing in the South Carolina primary.
“I for one am better because I had the chance to run,” Bush said.
After the event, News Channel 11’s Josh Smith questioned Bush in an exclusive one-on-one interview about a wide range of topics.
Smith: “Are you don’t with politics?”
Bush: “I’m not done with politics in the sense that I’m helping others. I believe that sound policy really matters. But as a candidate, I don’t think so.”
Bush said he talked to Tri-Cities region healthcare leaders about the changing healthcare industry and ways to lead in times of tremendous change.
Smith: “Do you think the Affordable Care Act is going away, and what impact will that have on heath care leaders and also for our viewers who are recipients?”
Bush: “Obamacare will be repealed, but this is somewhat a question of semantics. You can’t repeal it completely.” Bush said parts of Obamacare will remain even after its repealed. “My guess is this is going to take a few years, so you’ll see, hopefully, something that takes the power out of Washington and empower people to make these decisions.”
Bush also said he doesn’t buy the argument that the Russian government influenced the election last month.
“‘The Ruskies are out there sticking things in people’s brains?’ I mean, come on,” he said. “They (the Russians) had a candidate that they thought would be better than Hillary Clinton, but they didn’t influence the election. The American people made up their minds on this,” Bush said.
Bush and President-elect Donald Trump were fierce political opponents during the 2016 presidential race, but on Monday Bush said he’s optimistic about Trump’s cabinet picks so far, adding he had high praise for Rex Tillerson who’s being considered for secretary of state.
“My guess is what they’ll find is a guy (Tillerman) with vast experience. A patriot,” Bush said. “Someone who will represent the U.S. really, very well. But they’ll have a chance to discuss this is at an opening hearing. That’s how the process works.”
Bush also told us he thinks Trump could have a tough time following through on campaign promises to bring back lost jobs and restore the coal industry.
“It’s going to be tough. I hope he realizes his words have big consequences,” he said. “It’s just a campaign. It’s not being at an event. There are a lot of people counting on the restoration of economic lift.”
During the interview, Bush did clear up something he’s never publicly talked about since the election.
Smith: “Have you ever publicly said whether you voted for Donald Trump?”
Bush: “I didn’t vote for him. I made it clear I wasn’t going to support him. In my mind at that time I didn’t think either candidate passed the threshold of who should be sitting behind that desk in the Oval Office. Now,he’s won. My hope and prayer each and every day is that he understands the incredible opportunity he has to serve, that he has a servant’s heart and that he leads.”
While he didn’t say who he did vote for this past election, News Channel 11’s Josh Smith did ask him about whether he’s finished with politics.
See Bush’s answer tonight at 11 p.m. on News Channel 11.
Copyright 2016 WJHL. All rights reserved.