Knox Navy vet running for Congress

A retired Knox County combat veteran having served more than 18 years in the U.S. Navy, earning numerous medals while being wounded during his service, is seeking a seat in Washington, D.C., in his first run for political office.

But “sitting in Washington” is something Vito Sagliano said he wants to change.

Sagliano is a Republican candidate for the 2nd U.S. Congressional District seat, which is being vacated by retiring GOP U.S. Rep. John J. “Jimmy” Duncan Jr.

On the subject of Duncan’s constituent service, Sagliano has a mixed message.

Leaving the service “through the Wounded Warrior program … I’ve actually had personal experience with Mr. Duncan and he helped out a lot both for me and my family,” Sagliano, 40, said.

However, in his campaign literature, Sagliano states a problem with “having our voices not heard by those whom we have elected to represent us. It is time for change.”

“I’m talking about, basically, all of them in general,” Sagliano said about Congress.

“Even with Mr. Duncan himself, I feel that one of the biggest problems that we’ve had across the board as a people … there’s no actual contact with us like it should be,” Sagliano said.

“They spend more of their time actually up in [Washington] D.C. — and I understand they have jobs up there — but I think it’s gotten progressively worse over the years,” he added. “Basically they’re worried about what we say to the point of they’d rather ignore [a problem] than actually fix it.

‘One of my key things, I’m actually looking at spending a lot more time in Tennessee itself. What I would like to do is basically set time aside so individuals can come to my office. I want to set up times where in each county I could set up town halls.”

Saying he’s sensitive to constituents’ busy schedules, “I’m looking at trying to do them possibly either in the later evening and on the weekends,” Sagliano said. “… To make it where in each township or each county to try and schedule it where it works better with their schedules.”

Sagliano’s medals include The Military Outstanding Service Medal.

“Basically that’s based on volunteering out of town and basically being an individual that actually helps one-on-one with people,” he said.

Though he has no elected office political experience, “I’ve worked with politicians both from here and abroad,” Sagliano said about his disaster recovery leadership duties in the Navy, “and I just think, honestly, I could do a better job” than any of the other candidates seeking the seat.

Having entered the race in August, Sagliano said about his campaign contact with constituents, “One of the biggest things I’m finding is a lot of people are concerned that basically nobody’s willing to talk to each other.

Democrats won’t talk to Republicans, Republicans won’t talk to Democrats.

“Probably about 80 percent of the people I’ve talked to, that was their No. 1 concern.”

On the national budget and deficit, Sagliano said, “We need to listen more to the departments and agencies and find out what their actual priorities are instead of basically having items pushed on them they don’t need or want.

“A good example was with us on the [Department of Defense] side,” he added. “I know a lot of times they would give us ultimatums: ‘hey, these are programs we are cutting.’ … It was a lot of heartaches.”

Having “use it or lose it” money within a budget each fiscal year, Sagliano added, “actually is a big problem because it promotes waste.”

As for job growth, “If we start working on the roads, working on the power grid systems, water supply, everything else, then we’ll actually be promoting individual jobs,” Sagliano, a 1995 Carter High School graduate, said. “Also, it’s actually industry level [profits] for manufacturers, for transportation.”

As for infrastructure in general, “We’re not looking long term,” Sagliano said. “… One of the things we need to do is establish a modular system” to allow for upgrades, for modernization, without tearing apart an entire system.

As for helping veterans with their Veterans Administration benefits, Sagliano said he would be a champion for the many veterans who have given up hope of obtaining their proper benefits.

“They are very discouraged,” he said.

“One of the things we could do for active duty [servicemen and servicewomen] is merging their medical records with current records they have on active duty, so when they become part of the VA there’s a direct link,” Sagliano said.

Sagliano and wife, Trina, have three daughters: Anna, Maia and Sierra.

To contact or respond to Sagliano, e-mail or