Until incumbent Scott DesJarlais was revealed recently as a philandering husband who urged one of his several extramarital lovers to get an abortion, he was seen as a shoo-in to retain Tennessee's gerrymandered District 4 seat in the House of Representatives. He was so confident of reelection on his espoused pro-life/family-values position that he would not agree to debate his Democratic opponent, state Sen. Eric Stewart, no matter how credible Stewart's candidacy is.
The revelation of his hypocrisy and misdeeds, which resulted in the divorce by his first wife, have changed the political dynamics in District 4. The disclosures, mainly due to a tape recording that DesJarlais doesn't deny, have shredded his family-values credentials. And Tennesseans have had ample time to learn that Congress' hard-right House Republicans pay little attention to their economic and health care needs.
Stewart doesn't embrace the health reform law, aka Obamacare. But he and most Tennesseans have embraced the law's ban on pre-existing conditions for children (and for adults in January 2014). They like that it makes insurers spend at least 80 percent of their premium revenue on their patients' actual health care; that it lets children stay on their parents' policy until the age of 26; and that it's closing the Medicare dough-nut hole on prescription drug coverage and providing wellness care for seniors and women.
And they don't appreciate Republicans' push to voucherize Medicare and cut Medicaid's nursing home care, or to give more super-tax cuts for the superwealthy, while closing the middle-class' meager home mortgage tax exemption.
So now Stewart's polls are showing that he is within striking range of defeating DesJarlais and his support of the GOP's shell-game on vital national policies. Stewart, a Winchester insurance agent, college grad and 40-year-old father of two, has valuable legislative experience to validate his candidacy. He supports a balanced approach to deficit reduction, tax equity for the middle class, and incentives to create jobs and improve the district's economic opportunities.
District 4 voters would do well to support him. By all accounts, his experience and agenda reflect a far more disciplined and meritorious approach than DesJarlais, and his character has not been questioned.