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U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais wins Tennessee GOP nod after opponent concedes

State Senator Jim Tracy decides not to contest 38-vote loss in the state’s 4th District

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

tennessee mugMURFREESBORO, Tennessee (CFP) — U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais has won renomination in Tennessee’s 4th District after his Republican primary opponent, State Senator Jim Tracy, decided to concede rather than contest his razor-thin 38-vote loss in the August 7 primary.

U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais

U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais

Tracy’s decision caps a remarkable comeback by DesJarlais, who overcame a messy personal scandal and a cancer diagnosis to clear a major hurdle in his quest to return for a third term in Congress.

In an August 25 statement, Tracy said he didn’t want to put state and local elections officials and his supporters “through additional weeks of litigation, with uncertainty as to who the nominee will be.”

“A contest would not be the right thing for the Republican Party and the conservative cause in Tennessee,” he said.

DesJarlais won by just 38 votes out of more than 76,000 cast in the 4th District, which takes in the south-central part of the state. Given the district’s strong GOP tendencies, he will be favored for re-election in November over Democrat Lenda Sherrell, a retired accountant from Monteagle.

DesJarlais, 49, was facing voters for the first time since lurid details emerged from the case file of his bitter 2001 divorce from his first wife. In it, the congressman admitted having a string of extra-martial affairs and — perhaps even more damaging for an avowed right-to-life lawmaker — encouraging his then-wife to have two abortions.

DesJarlais (pronounced Dez-yar-lay), a medical doctor, also admitted having relationships with two female patients, which prompted the Tennessee State Board of Medical Examiners to reprimand him for unprofessional conduct and fine him $500.

Details about DesJarlais’s divorce became an issue in his contentious 2012 re-election campaign, which he won with just 56 percent of the vote. However, he successfully fought to prevent release of the full transcript of the case file until after the election.

In July, in the middle of the primary campaign, he announced that he had been diagnosed with neck cancer and was undergoing chemotherapy.

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