NASHVILLE - Embattled U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., says he's in the 4th Congressional District race to stay despite lackluster second quarter fund raising in which he lagged one of his GOP primary opponents by a seven-to-one margin and the other by better than two to one.
"Absolutely," said the South Pittsburg physician who reported raising just $39,153 from April 1 through June 30 for his 4th Congressional District reelection effort.
DesJarlais said the campaign "started earlier for some, and it's getting to be about a year out so we're going to start focusing a little more. As you know, we've been very busy in Washington and have a real heavy legislative calendar."
Asked whether it was a concern that state Sen. Jim Tracy's Federal Election Commission disclosure showed he raised $303,000 during the second quarter, DesJarlais said, "I've always worried about my race first, and I'll continue to worry about my campaign and I'll let other people worry about their's."
A DesJarlais campaign aide noted the congressman held no major fundraisers during the second quarter but said he intends to step up raising cash in August, a year out from the Aug. 7, 2014, in which he faces challenges from Tracy, who is from Shelbyville, and state Rep. Joe Carr, R-Lascassas.
Carr reported raising $100,255 in the second quarter.
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DesJarlais' comments came Friday night, after Tracy had reported raising $303,000. The congressman and Carr did not disclose until the Monday deadline.
Both Tracy and DesJarlais's net contributions were slightly lower after refunds to contributors. Tracy's net was $296,393, while DesJarlais, a Jasper physician, netted $35,155.
Tracy also dominates in cash on hand with $656,201. That's seven times as much as DesJarlais' $88,361. Carr reported $275,000 in cash on hand.
As a physician who bills himself as pro-life, DesJarlais won re-election last year despite revelations and court documents showing he slept with patients and pressured a former patient-lover to get an abortion in 2000. Divorce court records released after the 2012 election revealed DesJarlais supported two of his ex-wife's three abortions.
The congressman, who later remarried, has said that is not the person he is today and he believes God has forgiven him and asked voters to consider doing the same.
His disclosure shows he still has backing from powerful GOP colleagues in the U.S. House, including Speaker John Boehner, R-Ill., whose Freedom Project PAC gave DesJarlais $5,000. Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., contributed $2,500 through his Majority Committee PAC, FEC filings show.
Back in Tennessee, a one-time GOP congressional candidate, Monty Lankford of Franklin, contributed $10,000 through his Defenders of Freedom PAC. Donna Lodge of South Pittsburg gave $1,000 while Rusty McKee of Collegedale, an executive vice president of McKee Foods, contributed $1,000.
Tracy contributors include state Agriculture Commissioner Julius Johnson, who gave $500, and Mark Emkes, former state finance commissioner, who gave $1,000. National Health Care CEO Andy Adams of Murfreesboro and several family appear to have exceeded contribution limits but will have to content themselves with $2,600 for the primary and $2,600 for the general election. Walden Security owner Amy Walden of Lookout Mountain contributed $2,500.
Carr contributors include Chattanooga Whiskey Co. owner Joe Ledbetter, who contributed $2,600. Carr this year sponsored a law that among other things expanded the state's liquor distillery law to include Chattanooga. Corker Coker, owner of Chattanooga-based Coker Tire, contributed $1,300. Retired Republican businessman Albert McCall and wife Virginia of Carthage, contributed $2,600 each.
State Capitol Hill lobbyist Lee Barfield, a Nashville attorney, elected to play it safe, giving $1,000 to both Carr and Tracy.