NASHVILLE — U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais on Wednesday stepped up pressure on Jim Tracy to concede their 4th Congressional District Republican primary race after reviews of provisional ballots in most counties showed DesJarlais with an insurmountable 37-vote lead.
“At this point we believe the senator should concede for the good of the district and the Tennessee Republican Party,” said DesJarlais spokesman Robert Jameson, who noted “it’s statistically impossible” for Tracy to pick up the necessary votes needed to win last Thursday’s election.
With provisional votes counts completed in 13 of the district’s 16 counties by late afternoon, DesJarlais, a South Pittsburg physician, remained ahead by 37 votes — two votes more than he had on election night on Aug. 7.
That’s a difference amounting to a tiny fraction of 1 percent between DesJarlais’ 34,791 and Tracy’s 34,754 vote totals in the seven-man primary. All votes are not official until they’ve been certified.
The winner of the primary will face Democratic nominee Lenda Sherrell and independent Robert Rankin Doggart in the Nov. 4 general election.
According to Tennessee Secretary of State Tré Hargett’s office, 87 provisional ballots were cast in the 13 counties. The figure includes those cast in the Democratic primary and voters who chose to vote only in the general county elections.
Ten were ruled eligible Republican votes. DesJarlais got four and Tracy just two. The four other votes went to one of the other candidates.
Grundy, Sequatchie and Warren county election commissions have yet to take final action on their provisional ballots.
Voters are allowed to cast provisional ballots if they don’t have sufficient identification or their voter registration isn’t listed in local election commission data bases. Grundy County on Monday approved two provisional ballots when the voters returned with the required ID. Officials asked the Tennessee Safety Department to see if three others had registered through the department’s driver services division.
Meanwhile, Tracy, a state senator from Shelbyville, is in no mood to concede.
“There are still votes to be counted in the 4th District Republican primary and each county must go through their certification process,” Tracy campaign manager Stephanie Jarnagin said.
“Because this race is so close, we are going to continue to follow through the certification process,” she added before thanking “all of our volunteers and supporters for their continued support.”
All votes are expected to be certified by Aug. 25.
Tracy isn’t saying for now whether he will challenge the results. He can seek a recount five days after votes are certified.
“According to state law, any Republican election contest would have to be submitted to the Tennessee Republican Party, acting as the State Republican Primary Board, within five days after election certification,” Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney said in a statement.
He said “if an election contest is received, the Primary Board would consider all arguments regarding a contest in a just and fair manner. The State Republican Party is neutral in all primaries and can not speculate on any potential election contest.”
It’s unclear whether there are any other issues Tracy might try to bring up other possible issues with the GOP executive committee. Democrats in 2008 overturned a Middle Tennessee state Senate contest when they found a rush of Republicans jumped in to support then-Sen. Rosalind Kurita, D-Clarksville. She conducted a write-in campaign in the general but lost to Democrat Tim Barnes. She sued in federal court but lost at the district and appellate levels.
Cross-over voting hasn’t been raised in the bitter 4th District race.
During the campaign Tracy questioned DesJarlais’ effectiveness in Congress following the post-2012 election release of the physician’s 2000 divorce hearing transcript.
It showed DesJarlais, who billed himself as pro-life when he first ran in 2010, as having slept with two patients before his marriage ended and pressured one to get an abortion when she said she was pregnant.
Testimony also showed DesJarlais supported two abortions by his former wife prior to the couple’s marriage. Tracy and most Republican officials and strategists thought DesJarlais couldn’t survive a GOP primary. But the congressman proved more resilient. He asked voters to judge him by his conservative voting record and successful second marriage. He had Tea Party support and observers say there missteps by Tracy’s campaign.
Contact staff writer Andy Sher at email@example.com or 615-255-0550.
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, ...