NASHVILLE -- Democratic congressional candidate Eric Stewart says U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., was being two-faced this week for attending when Gov. Bill Haslam signed legislation cutting Tennessee's sales taxes on groceries.
"It was quite hypocritical" for DesJarlais to be there, Stewart, a state senator from Franklin County, said in an email.
He said DesJarlais "wants to be in the photo announcing bipartisan legislation for working Tennessee families that he had absolutely nothing to do with, yet he voted against working families when he had the chance to support them in Washington."
DesJarlais voted against extending federal payroll tax cuts, Stewart said.
He cited U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics figures for the 4th Congressional District, which has a median income of $37,966.
"That means everyone in the district that earns $50,000 a year or less, would lose around $996 a year if DesJarlais is successful in raising taxes on working-class families."
Haslam's ceremonial bill-signing in Whitwell, Tenn., Monday attracted a number of area state legislators.
Stewart voted to reduce the 5.5 percent state sales tax on food by a quarter cent. It amounts to a 25 cent reduction on a $100 grocery bill. He said he wished the cut were deeper.
DesJarlais' congressional spokesman, Robert Jameson, called Stewart's remarks "ridiculous."
"I don't think that a congressman being with the governor at an event in his district [let alone his home county] is much of a story," Jameson said.
Whitwell is in Marion County. The congressman lives in nearby Jasper.
"It's great to be in my home county," DesJarlais said at the event. "And it's certainly a pleasure to be a part of this event. I'm here to applaud the great work of our governor, Bill Haslam, and our state Legislature. What a great day, what a great concept, letting the ... taxpayers keep more of their money. Washington clearly has a huge spending problem."
DesJarlais campaign manager Brandon Lewis launched a return attack against Stewart.
"When your campaign lacks substantive ideas or solutions, this is the only kind of strategy you can employ -- one of misinformation. We will continue to focus on jobs, government spending and affordable health care," Lewis said.
"We'll let the opposition fret over who attends an event at Smith's Grocery [in Whitwell]."
In his email, Stewart said DesJarlais "couldn't support bipartisan legislation to extend the payroll tax cuts to working-class Tennesseans, but he had absolutely no problem voting for $394,000 in tax breaks to people who make more than $1 million a year, and he didn't think twice about continuing to give tax breaks to oil companies and big corporations that ship our jobs overseas."