5 Tennessee counties may determine outcome of DesJarlais-Tracy 4th District race

5 Tennessee counties may determine outcome of DesJarlais-Tracy 4th District race

August 13th, 2014 by Louie Brogdon in Local Regional News


This is how unofficial county-by-county vote totals stood at the end of the day Tuesday in the 4th Congressional District.

County -- Tracy -- Desjarlais

• Bedford -- 3,374 -- 2,052

• Bledsoe -- 683 -- 1,046

• Bradley -- 4,685 -- 2,396

• Franklin -- 794 -- 3,402

• Grundy -- 197 -- 735

• Lincoln -- 1,661 -- 2,787

• Marion -- 385 -- 1,858

• Marshall -- 1,852 -- 1,534

• Maury -- 2,717 -- 3,856

• Meigs -- 589 -- 573

• Moore -- 489 -- 564

• Rhea -- 2,192 -- 1,721

• Rutherford -- 13,587 -- 8,898

• Sequatchie -- 581 -- 1,162

• Van Buren -- 111 -- 391

• Warren -- 857 -- 1,816

• Totals -- 34,754 -- 34,791

• Total percent* 45% -- 45%

* Four other challengers split the remaining 10 percent

Jim Tracy on left, Scott DesJarlais on right

Jim Tracy on left, Scott DesJarlais on right

Photo by Staff File Photo /Times Free Press.

Five counties out of the 16 in the 4th Congressional District could determine whether U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais' razor-thin lead holds up or whether state Sen. Jim Tracy can overcome.

The number of valid provisional ballots in 11 counties had been accounted for late Tuesday, said Blake Fontenay, spokesman for Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett.

That left just Bedford, Grundy, Maury, Rutherford and Sequatchie.

Their yet-to-be-counted provisional ballots are keeping election officials quiet -- and the candidates in limbo.

Unofficially, DesJarlais picked up two more votes from provisional ballots in several 4th District counties on Tuesday, giving him what his campaign called a 37-vote lead over the challenger in the GOP primary. That would give DesJarlais 34,791 votes, to Tracey's 34,754.

That prompted the DesJarlais camp to re-declare victory, the latest in a series of victory claims from both sides.

But Fontenay said the election has not been called.

Provisional ballots are cast by people who did not have identification on election day, or were not on voter rolls, and are not counted until residents return with ID or proof that they live in the district. Monday was the deadline to show proof.

Robert Jameson, spokesman for DesJarlais, said the uncounted provisional ballots left couldn't overcome DesJarlais' surplus.

"We feel it is statistically impossible for Mr. Tracy to win," Jameson said.

That sentiment was echoed in a Wall Street Journal article Tuesday.

But Tracy's camp said declaring victory is premature.

Stephanie Jarnagin, a spokeswoman for Tracy, said the campaign is waiting for the official results.

"We are continuing to go through the process. There are still votes to be counted and we want to see that they are," Jarnagin said. "The race has not been certified yet, and we need to see that process through."

Fontenay said this process happens in every election.

"We work with all 95 counties during the certification process. We also check the various state agencies in order to find out if voters who voted with provisional ballots attempted to register at other agencies besides the local election commissions."

But because election leads typically exceed the number of provisional ballots in a race, they usually are counted without much fanfare.

The 16 counties must certify their results no later than Aug. 25. Then Fontenay said there is a five-day window for candidates to challenge the results.

If that happens, the Republican Party's state executive committee would decide whether to trigger a recount.

Fontenay could not say Tuesday when the last time a federal or state race has come down to provisional ballots in Tennessee.

If DesJarlais earns a third term, it will be despite years of rough press and criticism from colleagues over revelations that came out in his 2000 divorce.

DesJarlais and Tracy were both unavailable for comment Tuesday, spokespersons said.

Contact staff writer Louie Brogdon at lbrogdon@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6481.