NASHVILLE - Four years ago, U.S. Rep. Diane Black was battling fellow Republican Jim Tracy in a tough three-person GOP primary in Tennessee's 6th Congressional District.
But today, the Gallatin congresswoman is backing state Sen. Tracy in his 4th Congressional District primary challenge to U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn.
Both Black's and Tracy's offices today confirmed Black will attend an Aug. 5 fundraiser for Tracy in Sumner County, which is in Black's 6th District.
"Congressman Black and Senator Tracy have been friends since they served together in the General Assembly," Black spokesman Tom Flanagin said via email today. "He asked her to be his special guest at a fundraiser and she agreed."
Asked if that meant Black is supporting Tracy in the Aug. 7 primary, Flanagin replied, "Yes."
Tracy said in his own statement that "Diane and I came in to the Tennessee State Senate together as part of the group that flipped the Senate to a Republican Majority."
He said she "has been rated one of the most conservative members in the House and one of Tennessee's most effective leaders. She's not just a conservative vote, she is a conservative leader.
"Diane sponsored the first bill to successfully roll back a portion of Obamacare," Tracy said. "She has passed pro-life legislation that she wrote. She does not merely say conservative things, she has conservative accomplishments."
That's not sitting well with DesJarlais, a South Pittsburg physician.
"I am disappointed Diane Black would support someone she tried so hard to defeat in 2010," DesJarlais said in a statement emailed to the Times Free Press. "Perhaps it is not surprising though that two career politicians would join forces to try to unseat the fourth most conservative Member of the House."
DesJarlais, first elected in 2010, charged his "principled stance against funding ObamaCare, irresponsibly raising the debt limit and unconstitutional federal overreach just does not fit into their say one thing do another approach. It is beyond clear now that Jim Tracy is beholden to special interest groups and the Washington establishment."
The congressman has been seen as vulnerable because of revelations that he supported his ex-wife's two abortions before their marriage and that he conducted adulterous affairs, including two with patients, one of whom he encouraged to seek an abortion.
DesJarlais has said he was trying to get the woman to acknowledge she wasn't pregnant.
While once described by a Washington publication as one of the top 10 endangered incumbents in the entire U.S. House, political observers here in Tennessee say they see the race's outcome as less clear right now.
See complete story in Friday's Times Free Press.