WINCHESTER, Tenn. — U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais today officially launched his 2014 reelection bid today with the besieged South Pittsburg physician saying he is undeterred by two well-funded fellow Republicans aiming to topple him in the GOP primary.
"It's no secret that my opponents and the media love to pick apart mistakes I've made in the past far before I decided to run for Congess," DesJarlais told the some 100 supporters who gathered before the Franklin County Corthouse here.
Revelations of an affair DesJarlais had with a patient and that he encouraged her, when she claimed she was pregnant by him, to seek an abortion in 2000 rocked his 2012 bid for a second term.
"Unfortunately for my friends, my family, wife and kids, we've endured about three years of rather vicious personal attacks," he said. "But through all this we've come to realize they have no better option than to tear me down personally because because they certainly have not found a way to attack me on what I stand for or the way I do my job as a congressman."
His supporters, many of them Tea Party members, cheered as DesJarlais said he has stood by his pledge and "ruffled" the Washington establishment, including GOP leaders on issues like pushing to cut debt.
He criticized President Barack Obama and attacked the president's affordable care act, known as Obamacare.
Attending the announcement was Warren County Tea Party member Donna Reid of Morrison who said DesJarlais' personal issues are "the past. What he does now is exactly what we sent him up there to do. Get rid of all the junk up there.
"He votes no on everything," she said.
But the congressman's critics have continued to refer to his past.
After his re election last year where the affair with the patient and the abortion issue first surfaced, a court transcript from DesJarlais’ 2001 divorce was released. It showed him acknowledging having several affairs with patients or coworkers and that he also went along with his then-wife’s decision to have two abortions.
DesJarlais remarried several years ago. With him at today's announcement was his wife, Amy, their two children and his son from his previous marriage.
After a medical ethics complaint was filed against DesJarlais last year by a Washington, D.C., group, the state’s medical board investigated and this year slapped him with a $500 fine over the patient relationship.
Earlier today, The National Journal, a nonpartisan Washington political publication, released a list of the top 10 lawmakers “who could lose a primary next year.” DesJarlais held down the No. 1 spot.
State Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville, and state Rep. Joe Carr, R-Lascassas, have already announced their candidacy for the 4th Congressional District seat and have far out-paced DesJarlais in fundraising.
Tracy ended the second quarter with $656,000 cash on hand. Carr had $275,000. DesJarlais was third with just $88,000 after raising $39,000 in the second quarter. But the congressman said he has yet to make a fundraising push.
Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...