The Republican primary of the Tennessee race for U.S. Senate on Thursday is being billed as perhaps the last big chance for tea party candidates to unseat an establishment Republican this cycle but there’s another race that could, conceivably, result in an incumbent losing to his Republican primary challenger.
Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-TN) faces primary challenger state Sen. Jim Tracy (R), who recently managed to get into headlines for saying that he’d be open to impeaching President Barack Obama over his “overreach.”
DesJarlais, who was formerly a practicing physician, is the avowedly pro-life congressman who won re-election after news broke of a scandal involving him pressuring his mistress — also a patient of his — to have an abortion. He’d actually reportedly had affairs with multiple women, many of whom were his patients, and he even prescribed pain pills to one of them, a clear violation of doctors’ ethics. He also pushed his ex-wife to have two-abortions, according to The Hill. These revelations all came to light during his divorce proceedings in court.
Earlier in the 2014 cycle, it looked like DesJarlais’s days might have been numbered. Tracy arose as a credible challenger and decent fundraiser while DesJarlais began to struggle with fundraising. But it’s not clear anymore if DesJarlais is really doomed in Thursday’s primary.
DesJarlais’ allies want to show he’s in good shape for Thursday’s primary. A poll released in early July, conducted by conservative activist Andy Miller’s Citizens for Ethics in Government, found DesJarlais leading Tracy 45 percent to 20 percent. That group heavily favors DesJarlais’ reelection, however, so it’s not clear how close the race is.
According to The Hill, a direct mail piece targeting DesJarlais said: “Obama’s liberal agenda is destroying America. We need strong, conservative leadership to defend our values. But Scott DesJarlais doesn’t have the moral ground to stand on.”
But as of early August it appears that all of that hasn’t knocked DesJarlais out yet. A August 2 report in The Tennessean suggested that some voters were willing to forgive — or at least forget.
“Prior to this year, I’d never heard of it, to tell you the truth,” Jim Blue, a man interviewed by the Tennessean said of the DesJarlais abortion scandal. “Didn’t have an impact on what the issues are.”
This post was updated.