NASHVILLE - U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais went up with his first television ad on Tuesday that touts his conservative record and slams his GOP primary challenger, state Sen. Jim Tracy, as a supporter of Common Core education standards who "tried to make gas taxes automatic."
The move comes as both candidates in the 4th Congressional District Republican primary filed second-quarter campaign finance disclosures with the Federal Election Commission.
The embattled South Pittsburg physician reported $184,505 cash on hand as of June 30. Between April 1 and June 30 he raised $45,484 and spent $59,335, including $9,500 on polling. The $70,000 television ad buy was purchased after the reporting period.
Tracy reported $147,674 in net contributions during the quarter. He spent $356,121 and had $705,113 in hand as of June 30.
Early voting starts Friday in the Aug. 7 election.
DesJarlais, a South Pittsburg physician seeking a third term, is considered one of the most vulnerable incumbents in the U.S. House this year. It came out during and after his 2012 campaign that the pro-life congressman supported his ex-wife's two abortions and encouraged a patient with whom he'd had an affair to obtain an abortion. The revelations stemmed from records and testimony in his 2000 divorce. He since has remarried.
DesJarlais' ad opens with him walking across a field with his wife, Amy, and then cuts to a series of images of DesJarlais in a factory and a farm field. A female announcer says, "The choice -- Dr. Scott DesJarlais, the fourth most conservative member of Congress, listens to us."
The announcer says that "DesJarlais is fighting Obama's agenda. He opposed Common Core, voted to repeal Obamacare and opposed raising the debt limit every time."
But, the announcer charges, "Jim Tracy -- he voted for Common Core, praised Obama's education agenda. And Tracy tried to make gas tax increases automatic -- because Jim Tracy listens to the political establishment. Not us."
Tracy's disclosure shows he has spent some $120,000 on TV production and air time through June 30 and about the same on printing and sending direct mailman.
Last week, Tracy hit DesJarlais with a mass mailing saying DesJarlais can't be effective given his past.
In one of at least two Tracy campaign mailers hitting DesJarlais on the issue, the text says, "Scott DesJarlais. Not the man who says he is. Not the man we believed he was."
The mailer also cites news accounts and accuses DesJarlais of "Abortion. Affairs. Abuse of Power" and charges his statements that he is pro-life "have no meaning."
The DesJarlais campaign calls it "disgusting gutter politics."
DesJarlais campaign spokesman Robert Jameson said the congressman has enough money to battle Tracy.
"We will certainly have all the financial resources we need," he said. "The campaign received some fairly substantial donations that did not make it on this quarter's report."
Stephanie Jarnagin, Tracy's campaign manager, said that "while Congressman DesJarlais continues to negatively distort Jim Tracy's conservative record, our campaign is focused on meeting the voters."
She added, "We need a representative in Washington who is both conservative and effective. Republicans didn't have a choice in the primary last time, this time they do."
Contact staff writer Andy Sher at email@example.com or 615-255-0550.