Tenn. primary challenger concedes to Rep. DesJarlais, despite 38-vote margin

BY Associated Press  August 25, 2014 at 12:14 PM EST
Photo by Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call

U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, seen here in a 2012 file photo, won his primary in Tennessee by only 38 votes. Photo by Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Republican state senator who challenged scandal-plagued U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais conceded his 38-vote primary loss to the incumbent on Monday, saying he decided not to challenge the results.

State Sen. Jim Tracy said in a news release that he had decided against putting the GOP, state officials, his family and others through “additional weeks of litigation, with uncertainty as to who the nominee will be.”

Tracy had faced a Tuesday deadline to decide whether to challenge the results to the state Republican Party’s executive committee. It was not clear how a challenge would have closed the 38-vote gap, and Tracy acknowledged that a recount would not uncover illegal votes or votes illegally prevented from being cast.

DesJarlais, a Jasper physician, prevailed despite a series of personal scandals that included affairs with patients, the urging of a mistress to seek an abortion and once holding a gun in his mouth for hours outside his ex-wife’s room.

Tracy, a state senator from Shelbyville, won the counties in the western part of the district near Nashville, but that wasn’t enough to overcome DesJarlais’ heavy margins in the rural counties toward Chattanooga.

“Tennesseans chose to judge me on my record in Washington,” DesJarlais said in a statement after the voting was complete for the Aug. 7 primary.

In both of DesJarlais’ previous elections, he 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 from divorce proceedings released the week after the November 2012 election confirmed many of those revelations.

And last year, DesJarlais was fined and reprimanded by the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners for having sex with patients before he was elected.

Tracy, an insurance agent and former college basketball referee, stressed themes of integrity in his campaign against DesJarlais, but some observers said he didn’t hit DesJarlais hard enough over his past.

DesJarlais, who faced a heavy fundraising disadvantage during the campaign, dismissed attention to his past scandals as mudslinging about “old news,” instead stressing his tea party credentials and hard-line opposition to President Barack Obama’s policies.

The Democratic nominee in the race is Lenda Sherrell, a retired accountant from Monteagle, who will hope to capitalize on distaste in the general electorate about DesJarlais’ personal history. DesJarlais in 2010 defeated the last Democrat to hold the 4th district seat, former Rep. Lincoln Davis.