Embattled U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais kicks off bid for 3rd term

Wednesday, August 7, 2013 at 3:53pm

WINCHESTER, Tenn. — Short on campaign cash and facing two formidable opponents from within his own party, Republican U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais kicked off his bid for a third term in office Wednesday.

DesJarlais launched his re-election campaign from the steps of the courthouse in Winchester before about 100 supporters huddled under umbrellas as a storm approached.

The congressman got his loudest cheer for pledging to continue to fight President Barack Obama's health care law.

"We're the last line of defense between President Obama and his radical vision for America," he said. "If we do not take a stand, then who will?"

In the 10-minute speech, DesJarlais dismissed attention to personal issues that have plagued his political career. The Jasper physician, who was reprimanded and fined by the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners in May for having sex with patients before he was elected, said those events have no bearing on his performance in office.

"It's no secret that my opponents and the media love to pick apart mistakes I made in the 1990s, long before I ever decided to run for Congress," he told the crowd.

"We've endured about three years of rather vicious attacks," he said. "But through all this we've come to realize they have no better option than to try to tear me down personally, because they certainly haven't found a way to attack me on what I stand for and how I do my job as a congressman."

In both the 2010 and 2012 elections, DesJarlais tried to cast doubt on reports of violent behavior toward his ex-wife and about multiple extramarital affairs before his divorce was finalized.

But court transcripts released the week after last November's election revealed that he admitted under oath to eight affairs, encouraged a lover to get an abortion and used a gun to intimidate his first wife during an argument.

The testimony also revealed that DesJarlais, who now opposes abortion rights, and his ex-wife agreed to seek two abortions.

In his previous two races, damaging revelations about his personal life did not come into focus until the general election, and he was able to tap into strong GOP support to defeat his Democratic opponents.

But this time DesJarlais has drawn primary opponents in state Rep. Joe Carr and state Sen. Jim Tracy. Both have far outraised DesJarlais so far, even while steering largely clear of mentioning the incumbent's personal problems.

DesJarlais said he's not worried about making up fundraising ground, telling supporters he's been focused on his job in Congress.

"You spend too much time campaigning and they criticize you for not doing you job, but if you focus on your job they criticize you for not campaigning enough," he said.

Supporters at the event said they were not concerned about DesJarlais' past.

"That's the past," said Donna Reid, a tea party enthusiast from Morrison. "What he does right now is what we sent him up there to do."

Fellow supporter Judy Johnson of Sewanee agreed.

"They can talk about all the scandals they want about Scott DesJarlais, but they need to start cleaning out Washington first," she said.

Adam Nickas, a Republican operative and former executive director of the state party, said with a year to go before the primary election, there should be enough time for any candidate to be competitive.

"But the fundraising numbers have to be disconcerting to the incumbent," he said. "While most voters would like to think that elections come down to issues, I think this election is going to be determined by voters deciding who they are most comfortable with."

Chip Saltsman, a strategist for the Carr campaign, said DesJarlais' personal past was bound to a concern for voters.

"His past will be an issue, because you can't help it," he said. "But the Joe Carr campaign is going to make this campaign about Joe Carr, not about Scott DesJarlais."

12 Comments on this post:

By: gdiafante on 8/8/13 at 6:06

Remember when politicians facing scandal would do the honorable thing and go away?

Yeah, me neither.

By: global_citizen on 8/8/13 at 7:06

This man has clear problems that go to the issue of his character, and he has the audacity to try to turn it on opponents and say they''re attacking him. He is not fit for public office. Period.

But on the subject of his record (political, not criminal)... what exactly has he done while he's been in Congress? Can anyone say "Man, he's been so good for Tennessee and his district, we can't afford to see him leave Congress."? The notion is laughable.

By: govskeptic on 8/8/13 at 7:25

The Congressman has voted just as he stated he would when he first ran for
office. He's certainly not voted the way the two previous posters would have liked,
that's for sure, but of course, neither would have voted for him prior to any of
these over hyped stories. He's also a better candidates than either of the two
clown like characters opposing him in the upcoming primary.

By: bfra on 8/8/13 at 8:03

gov. - From your comments, his MO is something you would support. He is a scumbag!

By: PKVol on 8/8/13 at 8:30

I love the hypocrites on here. We had a sitting President who had an affair with an intern and they want to lynch this guy for something he did 15-20 years ago! But I guess somehow that is different because Clinton has never said he was against extra-marital affairs.

We all make mistakes, it is those that learn from the mistakes and become better people as a result that are the ones we should lift up and support.

By: bfra on 8/8/13 at 9:36

PK - Where is any evidence that this scumbag has learned from his mistakes?

By: gdiafante on 8/8/13 at 9:44

Maybe PK and gov should re-read my post. Apparently reading comprehension isn't their strong suit.

By: pswindle on 8/8/13 at 10:25

If he is re-elected, what has happened to Tennessee's right-winged church people, and will they embrace him?

By: govskeptic on 8/8/13 at 11:43


Why should I read the bulls@it you put on your post, or anyone else as a matter of
fact. You wouldn't know an accomplishment, outside of a giveaway if it smacked your
in the face. You make remarks about other peoples reading comprehension with
a self appreciation that what you've written is even competent or worthy of a second
thought. Your gold stars in second grade are irrelevant when it comes to politics.

By: bfra on 8/8/13 at 12:02

gov - gdiafante comments have a lot more relevance & facts than anything you have ever put on this board. He doesn't have to make up (2 martinis, for example) to try for some attention. You would do better to stick to facts instead of making up inputs.

By: govskeptic on 8/8/13 at 1:04

The mindless bimbo speaks again. Speaking of one who seeks attention. I post
maybe twice on any given day and she has the entire day to munch and type dozens
of comments. Always after someone else has made an original point, never herself.

By: bfra on 8/8/13 at 1:17

gov - You make me laugh harder than I have in a long time. Show 1 of your "original" points, that is without any adlibs. HA HA Thanks for the humor!