U.S. Rep. DesJarlais announces re-election bid

U.S. Rep. DesJarlais announces re-election bid

October 17th, 2017 by Judy Walton in Breaking News

U.S. Rep. Scott Desjarlais speaks at the La-Z-Boy furniture plant on Thursday, June 2, 2016, in Dayton, Tenn.

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais on Tuesday formally announced he is seeking re-election to a fifth term as Tennessee's 4th District congressman.

DesJarlais, a Republican from South Pittsburg, Tenn., said in a news release he wants to continue strengthening the nation's military from his seat on the House Armed Services Committee.

"This country has a military readiness crisis," DesJarlais said in the release. "Threats are mounting. I've been working hard to address troop strength, training, equipment, and strategy, and want to continue that important work supporting brave Tennesseans, serving in harm's way, and a local defense industry that employs tens of thousands of people across the Volunteer State."

He said the 4th District in Middle Tennessee is part of an aerospace and defense technology corridor that includes Fort Campbell, Arnold Air Force Base, Redstone Arsenal, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and more.

"I'm proud of our new Commander-in-Chief, Donald Trump, and will push the agenda Republicans promised Tennessee voters," he said.

That includes reducing regulations that he says harm energy and agriculture, spurring "more economic opportunity for every Tennessean," said DesJarlais, who also serves on the House Agriculture Committee.

DesJarlais faces a challenger in the August 2018 Republican primary from Jack Maddux, a businessman, U.S. Navy veteran and former police officer from Cleveland, Tenn. On his website, Maddux calls himself a strong constitutional conservative, active in church and community projects.

"I am not a politician. I am not a millionaire. I am a Tennessean," Maddux says on his website. " Tennessee needs representatives that are results driven. Tennessee needs representatives who will put people first. It's time for Tennessee to have a leader in Congress, not a follower."

DesJarlais, a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, was first elected in 2010 when he beat Democrat Lincoln Davis by more than 11 percentage points, part of the tea party wave that inundated Congress that year.

He won re-election by 11 points over Democrat Eric Stewart in 2012.

However, revelations from his 2001 divorce became public shortly thereafter. They showed the staunchly pro-life congressman had encouraged his then-wife's two abortions. His constituents also learned he had had affairs with patients and urged a lover who claimed she was pregnant to get an abortion.

DesJarlais said he had remarried, found God and was a changed man, but he barely scraped out a 38-vote win in the 2014 primary over state Sen. Jim Tracy, then soundly defeated Democrat Lenda Sherrell and independent Robert Doggart.

By 2016, though, DesJarlais appeared well-situated. He beat back a well-funded primary challenger, Grant Starrett, and two others and defeated Democrat Steven Reynolds, of Manchester, with 65 percent of the vote.

Reynolds is running again this time, hoping to snag the Democratic nomination over newcomer Mariah Phillips.

Reynolds says he got more votes in 2016 than any Democratic challenger in Tennessee and more votes than Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in all 16 counties of the 4th District.

In his campaign literature, Reynolds seeks to separate himself from the national party leaders, whom he calls "Washington insiders."

"Our campaign will continue to spread the message of the importance of good jobs and inform of the policies behind job creation in rural America, such as through Education, Infrastructure, and Healthcare. In addition, I will continue to stand for choice, equality, privacy, campaign finance reform, and diplomacy," Reynolds says on Facebook.

Phillips, a Rutherford County teacher and MTSU graduate, is among the candidates being trained and supported by Emerge Tennessee, founded last year to help more women seek public office.

She says she will focus on education, health care, college affordability and keeping public lands in public hands.

The district includes Bedford, Bledsoe, Grundy, Lincoln, Marion, Marshall, Meigs, Moore, Rhea, Rutherford, Sequatchie and Warren counties, plus significant portions of Bradley, Maury, and Van Buren counties.

Contact Judy Walton at jwalton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6416.

This story was updated Oct. 17 at 11:15 p.m.