NASHVILLE — Republican U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais scraped through with a 35-vote margin over GOP primary challenger Jim Tracy in Tennessee's 4th Congressional District, but Tracy is not conceding and the final outcome may boil down to uncounted provisional ballots.
According to uncertified returns from Thursday's election, DesJarlais, a South Pittsburg physician once seen as one of the nation's most vulnerable incumbents over personal issues from his past, defeated Tracy by 34,787 to 34,752 votes.
It was so close that at one point Tracy, a state senator from Shelbyville, declared victory before all the votes were in. Tracy said there was no way DesJarlais could catch up.
But that proved premature.
DesJarlais spokesman Robert Jameson said in a statement that the two-term congressman "is honored to have won the Republican primary for Tennessee's Fourth Congressional District. He campaigned on his record of independent, conservative representation and voters chose to focus on that rather than Mr. Tracy's desperate, negative personal attacks."
Tracy attacked DesJarlais over relevations from the physician's 2000 divorce records. They showed the self-described pro-life lawmaker years ago went along with his ex-wife's decision to seek to two abortions prior to their marriage.
The records also showed DesJarlais conducted affairs with two patients and other women during the couple's separation and pressured one of the patients to seek an abortion when she said she was pregnant.
DesJarlais said that was years before he sought political office and he had since become religious, remarried happily to second wife Amy and hoped that voters would forgive him.
Tracy's campaign, meanwhile, issued a statement saying, "there are ballots left to be counted in the Fourth District Republican primary. We eagerly await the final outcome once the counting is completed and verified."
The ultimate winner will face Democrat Lenda Sherrell of Monteagle in the Nov. 4 general election.
Sherrell is indeed the Democratic nominee. She was the only one on the ballot.
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, ...