Scott DesJarlais may have new challenger in 2016 GOP primary

Scott DesJarlais may have new challenger in 2016 GOP primary

March 9th, 2015 by Andy Sher in Local Regional News

NASHVILLE - After barely squeaking through his 2014 GOP primary last year, U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais of Tennessee may have a new 4th Congressional District challenge next year.

Grant Starrett, who worked for Republican Mitt Romney's 2012 campaign and last year headed a group that fought against a proposed Tennessee constitutional amendment regarding judicial elections, has been sounding out fellow Republicans about a bid, sources say.

"I've just heard that he's thinking about it, exploring it," said one Republican strategist. 

Another GOP strategist thinks it's further along than that and that the 27-year-old Starrett, a Vanderbilt University law graduate, has been talking with Mark Braden, another GOP operative who worked in the campaigns of U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., in 2014, and U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., in 2012.

Grant Starrett

Grant Starrett

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Scott DesJarlais

Scott DesJarlais

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

Political analysts Stuart Rothenberg and Nathan Gonzales blogged about Starrett today on Roll Call.

DesJarlais narrowly won his 2014 GOP primary contest last year, defeating state Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville, by 38 votes in the sprawling district that stretches from Bradley County in the east to Murfreesboro in the west.

Tracy pounded DesJarlais on revelations the pro-life South Pittsburg physician had had affairs with at least two patients, encouraging one who said she was pregnant to get an abortion. He also went along with his former wife's decision to have two abortions.

All the information, later verified in documents from DesJarlais' divorce, trickled out over a three-year period beginning when DesJarlais first ran for Congress in 2010 and defeated then-U.S. Rep. Lincoln Davis, D-Tenn.

DesJarlais said he later found God, remarried and is no longer the person he once was. 

Starrett's Linked-In entry says he is vice president and special counsel at Lion Real Estate Group.

Asked about the potential challenge, DesJarlais spokesman Robert Jameson said "Congressman DesJarlais is solely focused on representing his constituents in Congress."