WASHINGTON - It's basically a no-brainer: $200,000 in campaign contributions for an exploratory congressional bid is a boatload of cash.
But right now, state Rep. Joe Carr can't be so sure.
Celebrating his political war chest plunder Tuesday, the Rutherford County lawmaker announced he had raised exactly $205,479 in six weeks. It's all part of his exploratory bid to unseat U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais as the Republican nominee in what could be Tennessee's nastiest upcoming election.
"We're a step closer to making a final decision on whether to jump in, but I can tell you one thing," Carr said. "All indications point to that direction."
But it's impossible to know how well he's doing until the 2014 campaign's declared candidates (DesJarlais and state Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville) show their cards, too. Carr's 4th District first-quarter tally surfaced a week early, as the deadline to file January-to-March fundraising totals doesn't arrive until Monday.
A DesJarlais aide did not respond to a request for comment on fundraising, and Tracy declined to state his number.
"Joe's been working on this since back in December, so that's longer than six weeks," Tracy said in a phone interview Tuesday. "We're working on ours. We'll wait and see where everybody is on the 15th."
It's early, but the 4th District dollar scramble could quickly become cramped. Political insiders expect numerous challenges to DesJarlais after court records showed the Jasper physician and anti-abortion congressman encouraged a former patient-lover to get an abortion. Further documents revealed DesJarlais supported his ex-wife's abortions in the 1990s.
To date, no Democrats have challenged DesJarlais. The congressman hosted a Capitol Hill fundraiser last month, but his campaign never announced how much he raised.