NASHVILLE — After surviving a tough re-election fight in November, U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., now faces a 2014 GOP primary challenge from a fellow Republican who trumpets his "Tennessee values" over the Jasper physician's troubled past.
State Sen. Jim Tracy, 56, of Shelbyville, plans formally to declare his 4th District candidacy today in Murfreesboro, the largest city in the sprawling 16-county congressional district.
In a statement, Tracy, an insurance agency owner and eight-year legislative veteran, said, "It is with a heavy heart that I have decided to challenge the incumbent from my own party. For the good of the people of the 4th Congressional District, who hold our Tennessee values dear, a change in leadership is a must."
Tracy said a "place like Washington, D.C., requires someone of integrity and character."
That's intended as a direct challenge to DesJarlais, who first was elected in 2010 and touts his anti-abortion rights stances.
During his 2012 campaign against Democrat Eric Stewart, DesJarlais was rocked by revelations that he slept with at least two patients in 2000, urged one of them who said she was pregnant by him to get an abortion and faced other issues.
Efforts to reach DesJarlais spokesman Robert Jameson on Tuesday were unsuccessful. After state Rep. Joe Carr, R-Lacassas, announced last month that he had formed a committee to test the waters for a campaign against DesJarlais, Jameson said the congressman "is completely focused on the job he was elected to do by residents of the 4th District."
DesJarlais is fending off complaints before the state Department of Health regarding his acknowledged affairs with at least two patients and prescribing painkillers to one of them.
Another complaint is pending before a congressional ethics panel that he lied to voters during his 2012 election about aspects of his affairs.
In November, DesJarlais beat Stewart, of Winchester, with 55.94 percent of the vote.
DesJarlais recently said "God has forgiven me" and asked "fellow Christians" and constituents to consider doing the same.
But a number of top Republican leaders ranging from Gov. Bill Haslam to U.S. Sen. Bob Corker and U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann have steered clear of DesJarlais.
His district includes 14 counties, including Marion, Grundy, Rhea and Sequatchie and part of two others, including Bradley.
Tracy, who is chairman of the state Senate's Safety and Transportation Committee and touts his conservative views, represents all or parts of five counties, including a chunk of Rutherford, the largest county in the district.
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, ...