NASHVILLE - Calling Congress "broken" and in need of repair, state Sen. Eric Stewart of Franklin County said Thursday he is running for the Democratic nomination in Tennessee's 4th Congressional District.
Stewart, D-Belvidere, promised in a news release to set partisanship aside and work to protect the nation's "commitment to seniors" as well as create jobs to revive the economy and reduce the federal deficit.
"Congress is broken and all we see is fighting, political posturing and gridlock from the folks we sent there to work on our behalf and solve the serious problems we face," Stewart said. "People are struggling. Unemployment remains too high."
The 4th District is represented by freshman U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn. DesJarlais, a Jasper, Tenn., physician, ousted incumbent Democrat Lincoln Davis in the 2010 GOP wave that swept both Tennessee and much of the country.
In a statement, DesJarlais said Thursday that "my focus is on the upcoming [congressional] super committee recommendation and how to best reduce our national debt. There will be a time to focus on the campaign, but it isn't now."
Meanwhile, it remains to be seen what the sprawling congressional district, which includes 21 East and Middle Tennessee counties and parts of three others, will look like in 2012. It now includes Democratic-leaning Grundy, Marion and Sequatchie counties.
All nine of the state's congressional districts will be redrawn by the Republican-controlled General Assembly next year, based on numbers from the 2010 U.S. census. And the powerful state Senate Republican caucus chairman, Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, has shown interest in moving his home county, Rutherford, into the 4th District.
Ketron has not ruled out challenging DesJarlais in the GOP primary.
Stewart, 39, is finishing up his first term in the Senate. With Republicans in charge of Senate redistricting, Stewart's own Senate district could change substantially.
By choosing not to run for re-election to the Senate, Stewart, a former Franklin County commissioner, is staking all on the congressional bid.
"I know there are going to be hardworking Tennesseans all throughout the district that we can take a message to, and I feel like we can win this race," Stewart said Thursday by telephone.
Stewart is already taking DesJarlais to task on his vote for a U.S. House budget plan that he said "had these Medicare vouchers in it, which quite honestly does end Medicare as we know it."
A businessman, Stewart recently sold his insurance agency to focus efforts on the family's home-improvement business. His father is mayor of Franklin County. Stewart and his wife, Judy, have two children.