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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, Chickenfriedpolitics.com 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.

Tennessee primary: Lamar Alexander wins, Scott DesJarlais in cliffhanger

Alexander beats back Tea Party U.S. Senate challenger; DesJarlais battles to keep U.S. House seat amid messy personal scandal

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

NASHVILLE (CFP) — U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander has taken a major step towards securing a third term by easily beating back a Tea Party-inspired GOP primary challenge from State Rep. Joe Carr.

U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander

U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander

Alexander took 50 percent of the vote in the August 7 primary, where he faced Carr and five other challengers. Carr, who had the support of Tea Party and outside conservative groups that had targeted Alexander for defeat, took 41 percent.

Alexander was one of five sitting Southern Republican senators targeted in primaries this year. All five survived.

In a closely-fought Democratic primary, Gordon Ball, a former federal prosecutor, narrowly defeated Terry Adams, a Knoxville attorney, by less than 2,000 votes. Ball will face Alexander in November.

After a fractious primary in which half of the voters from his own party voted for someone else, Alexander, 74, sounded a note of conciliation in his victory speech at a Nashville pizza parlor, reaching out not only to his GOP opponents but also to Democrats and independents.

“After we make our speeches, we’re going to have to roll up our sleeves, get together, work with each other and get something done,” he said. “That’s the Tennessee way. That’s the American way.”

Meanwhile, in Tennessee’s 4th District, with some absentee and provisional ballots still to be counted, incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais held a lead of just 35 votes over his primary challenger, State Senator Jim Tracy, amid a messy personal scandal that took a toll on DesJarlais’s popularity.

U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais

U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais

Given the district’s strong GOP tendencies, the GOP nominee 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.

Embattled GOP Rep. Scott DesJarlais faces primary struggle in central Tennessee

State Senator Jim Tracy, DesJarlais’s challenger, has outraised the incumbent more than 4-to-1

By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics editor

tennessee mugMURFREESBORO, Tennessee (CFP) — The Republican primary battle in Tennessee’s 4th Congressional District is shaping up to be one of the most contentious of the 2014 cycle, with incumbent Rep. Scott DesJarlais trying to hold his seat amidst an avalanche of negative personal publicity.

U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais

U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais

DesJarlais, 49, first elected in the GOP landslide of 2010, is facing State Senator Jim Tracy, 57, of Shelbyville, who is telling anybody who will listen that voters in the district “deserve a strong and effective voice in Congress, which right now they do not have.”

Tracy’s not-so-veiled reference is to revelations from the case file from DesJarilais’s 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 in the heavily Republican district. However, DesJarlais successfully fought to prevent release of the full transcript of the case file until after the election.

After the transcript contradicted some of DesJarlais’s previous explanations about his behavior, his political support began to crumble. Two months later, Tracy jumped in to run against him.

To combat the damage, DesJarlais has been campaigning around the district, which includes 15 counties in central Tennessee, with his second wife, Susan, by his side. His campaign Web site also features a picture of him with his wife and three children.

DesJarlais has tried to deflect questions about his past by noting that his messy divorce happened nearly 13 years ago, long before he got involved in politics. However, fundraising figures show how much damage has been done.

State Senator Jim Tracy

State Senator Jim Tracy

During the first nine months of 2013, Federal Election Commission reports show that DesJarlais raised about $273,000, with $182,000 in cash on hand. By contrast, Tracy has raised nearly $922,000, with $768,000 on hand.

During the 2012 election cycle, DesJarlais raised $1.26 million.

A number of prominent conversative activist groups have lined up behind Tracy, including the Citizens United Political Victory Fund, the Concerned Women for America’s political action committee and the Tea Party Leadership Fund.

However, DesJairlais has held on to some conservative support. House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of California has given him $2,500, and the National Rifle Association tossed in another $1,000.

Rep. Darrell Issa of California, who is leading a number of congressional investigations into the Obama administration, appeared at a DesJarlais fundraiser back in March.

In November, DesJarlais announced that he would introduce legislation to impeach Attorney General Eric Holder, a stance that should play well in his district.

The congressman also defended remarks he made during a town hall meeting in Murfreesboro in August when an 11-year-old girl asked what she could do to help her father, an undocumented immigrant, stay in the country with her.

“We have laws, and we need to follow those, too,” DesJarlais responded, to cheers from the crowd. After he came under attack from liberal groups, he put a YouTube video of the exchange on his Web site, accompanied with a fundraising pitch.

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