DesJarlais re-elected despite abortion revelations

DesJarlais Begins Reelection Bid Rated Nation’s Least Likely to Succeed

Tom Humphrey’s Humphrey on the Hill

U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais kicked off his reelection campaign today while rated by the National Journal as the most likely incumbent congressmen to lose his seat in next year’s primary elections.
Here’s the excerpted Journal entry on DesJarlais (full article HERE), rated at the top of a list of the ten most likely members of Congress to lose their 2014 primary:
1) Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn.
It’s rare to see the name of Republican Scott DeJarlais without the adjective “embattled” attached to it these days. First, ex-wife of the antiabortion Tennessee physician had two abortions before they got married. Then came allegations that he slept with patients, and encouraged one to have abortion. (He was fined $500 by the state’s medical board for patient relationships–a no-no in the medical field.) As comedian Stephen Colbert quipped, “He is still adamantly against abortion except when it endangers the political life of the father.” DesJarlais has already drawn two GOP primary opponents in 2014, state Sen. Jim Tracy and state Rep. Joe Carr, who are both outraising the incumbent. Tracy ended the second quarter with $656,000 cash on hand, and Carr had $275,000. DesJarlais trailed, netting only $88,000 after raising a meager $39,000 in the second quarter.
And here’s Erik Schelzig’s story on the reelection kickoff event:
WINCHESTER, Tenn. (AP) — Short on campaign cash and facing two formidable opponents from within his own party, Republican U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais kicked off his bid for a third term in office Wednesday.
DesJarlais launched his re-election campaign from the steps of the courthouse in Winchester before about 100 supporters huddled under umbrellas as a storm approached.
The congressman got his loudest cheer for pledging to continue to fight President Barack Obama’s health care law.
“We’re the last line of defense between President Obama and his radical vision for America,” he said. “If we do not take a stand, then who will?”
In the 10-minute speech, DesJarlais dismissed attention to personal issues that have plagued his political career. The Jasper physician, who was reprimanded and fined by the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners in May for having sex with patients before he was elected, said those events have no bearing on his performance in office.

“It’s no secret that my opponents and the media love to pick apart mistakes I made in the 1990s, long before I ever decided to run for Congress,” he told the crowd.
“We’ve endured about three years of rather vicious attacks,” he said. “But through all this we’ve come to realize they have no better option than to try to tear me down personally, because they certainly haven’t found a way to attack me on what I stand for and how I do my job as a congressman.”
In both the 2010 and 2012 elections, DesJarlais tried to cast doubt on reports of violent behavior toward his ex-wife and about multiple extramarital affairs before his divorce was finalized.
But court transcripts released the week after last November’s election revealed that he admitted under oath to eight affairs, encouraged a lover to get an abortion and used a gun to intimidate his first wife during an argument.
The testimony also revealed that DesJarlais, who now opposes abortion rights, and his ex-wife agreed to seek two abortions.
In his previous two races, damaging revelations about his personal life did not come into focus until the general election, and he was able to tap into strong GOP support to defeat his Democratic opponents.
But this time DesJarlais has drawn primary opponents in state Rep. Joe Carr and state Sen. Jim Tracy. Both have far outraised DesJarlais so far, even while steering largely clear of mentioning the incumbent’s personal problems.
DesJarlais said he’s not worried about making up fundraising ground, telling supporters he’s been focused on his job in Congress.
You spend too much time campaigning and they criticize you for not doing you job, but if you focus on your job they criticize you for not campaigning enough,” he said.
Supporters at the event said they were not concerned about DesJarlais’ past.
“That’s the past,” said Donna Reid, a tea party enthusiast from Morrison. “What he does right now is what we sent him up there to do.”
Fellow supporter Judy Johnson of Sewanee agreed.
“They can talk about all the scandals they want about Scott DesJarlais, but they need to start cleaning out Washington first,” she said.
Adam Nickas, a Republican operative and former executive director of the state party, said with a year to go before the primary election, there should be enough time for any candidate to be competitive.
“But the fundraising numbers have to be disconcerting to the incumbent,” he said. “While most voters would like to think that elections come down to issues, I think this election is going to be determined by voters deciding who they are most comfortable with.”
Chip Saltsman, a strategist for the Carr campaign, said DesJarlais’ personal past was bound to a concern for voters.
“His past will be an issue, because you can’t help it,” he said. “But the Joe Carr campaign is going to make this campaign about Joe Carr, not about Scott DesJarlais.”

DesJarlais re-elected despite abortion revelations

Erik Schelzig, Associated Press 1:07 a.m. EST November 7, 2012

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A Tennessee Republican congressman won re-election on Tuesday overcoming revelations that he once had an affair with a patient and urged her to get an abortion.
Rep. Scott DesJarlais, a Jasper physician before going to Congress, beat Democratic challenger Eric Stewart on Tuesday. With 76 percent of precincts reporting, DesJarlais had 111,988 votes, or 57 percent, compared with Stewart’s 83,835 votes, or 43 percent.

DesJarlais, who opposes abortion rights, largely withdrew from public sight a month ago after news accounts based on his 2001 divorce emerged. His campaign used a heavy rotation of TV ads to link Stewart to President Barack Obama, an unpopular figure in the conservative 4th District.

It’s the second time DesJarlais has overcome explosive allegations stemming from his divorce. During his first campaign in 2010, the Democratic incumbent ran ads based on court records that said DesJarlais repeatedly pulled the trigger of an unloaded gun outside his first wife’s bedroom door and another time held a gun in his mouth for three hours

“It’s been the second election in a row that’s been more about, I guess, a 14-year-old divorce than about the issues,” DesJarlais said Tuesday night. “But sometimes I guess that’s the way politics goes.”

“The voters have spoken,” Stewart said in a statement. “I’m proud of the campaign we ran.”

Tennessee voters also chose Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney over President Barack Obama and elected the GOP’s Bob Corker to another six-year term in the U.S. Senate.

Romney, a former Massachusetts governor who lost to Rick Santorum in the state’s Republican primary in March, had few problems gaining Tennessee’s 11 electoral votes.

With 96 percent of precincts reporting, Romney had 1.4 million votes, or 59 percent, compared with Obama’s 934,835 votes, or 39 percent. Tennessee has voted for the Republican presidential candidate in each election since 2000.

Corker, a former Chattanooga mayor, easily defeated Democrat Mark Clayton, a part-time floor installer who was disavowed by the state party after the primary for his anti-gay views. Corker had 1.46 million votes, or 65 percent, compared with Clayton’s 687,100 votes, or 30 percent.

Corker said in his victory speech that he hoped the nation’s focus would quickly turn from elections to the federal budget.

“I really believe that we are one fiscal reform package away from being able to focus on the greatness of this nation,” Corker said. “It’s my hope that tomorrow we will begin as a nation — Republicans and Democrats — working toward that end.”

DesJarlais was able to reach the finish line of his re-election bid before potentially damaging trial transcripts from his volatile 2001 divorce were made public. DesJarlais’ attorney blocked the release until a transcript was complete, and Democratic Party officials said the court reporter couldn’t finish the work in time for voters to evaluate the records before the polls would close.

Stewart, who benefited from some outside money from a Democratic political action committee, had hoped that conservative voters who backed Romney were upset enough by the revelations about DesJarlais’ personal life to split their tickets and vote for him.

Heather Grader, a 27-year-old preschool teacher from Murfreesboro, said she voted for DesJarlais because she voted straight Republican. She was not bothered by the allegations against the congressman because she saw them as part of political mudslinging.

She criticized both Stewart and DesJarlais for running negative campaigns. “I would say they both did it,” she said.

DesJarlais’ win means that all nine members of the Tennessee congressional delegation were re-elected.

Among the remaining Republican members of the congressional delegation, freshman Rep. Diane Black of Gallatin faced no opposition after trouncing Lou Ann Zelenik in the Republican primary in August; Rep. Phil Roe of Johnson City defeated Democrat Alan Woodruff of Gray; Rep. John J. “Jimmy” Duncan won over Troy Goodale, both of Knoxville; Rep. Chuck Fleischmann of Chattanooga defeated Mary Headrick of Maynardville; Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Brentwood won over Credo Amouzouvik of Clarksville; and Stephen Fincher of Halls beat Timothy Dixon of Germantown.

Among the Democrats, Rep. Jim Cooper of Nashville beat Republican Brad Staats and Rep. Steve Cohen defeated George Flinn in Memphis.

Voters expressed strong interest in the presidential race even though Tennessee was expected to go strong for Romney.

In the Memphis suburb of Collierville, financial adviser Kevin Baltier, 44, said he voted for Romney because he believed the Republican’s tax plan and economic strategy would spur investment in the United States and help the overall economy. He praised Ryan’s knowledge of budget issues and ability to work with fellow members of Congress.

The married father of two boys also said Obama’s campaign failed to reach him.

“This class envy that the president has created to get re-elected, I don’t know whether he believes it or not, but he certainly has used it as a populist message,” he said.

In Knoxville, Micki Fox said she has known who she was voting for four years.

“Barack Obama in 2008, and I have never wavered,” said Fox, an administrator at the University of Tennessee College of Law.

Scott DesJarlais


Posted by: Louis Sheehan







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Louis Sheehan
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