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DesJarlais to kick off reelection campaign

4:46 PM, Jul 24, 2013   |    comments
Scott Desjarlais
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By Chas Sisk / The Tennessean 

U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, who weathered disclosures about his personal life to win a second term in November, announced Wednesday that he'll officially launch his re-election campaign next month in Winchester.

The two-term incumbent, who trails his Republican challengers badly in fundraising, said he will hold a kickoff rally at 1 p.m. on Aug. 7 on the steps of the Franklin County Courthouse. The event comes 12 months before the primary.

"My first priority has always been to do my job in Congress, representing the people of Tennessee's 4th Congressional District," DesJarlais, R-South Pittsburg, said in a press release. "I do not believe that voters elect their leaders to run a perpetual campaign. However, I feel that one year from the primary is an appropriate time to start focusing on the 2014 primary."

DesJarlais, a physician who rode the tea party wave to office in 2010, has been battered by details about his personal life contained in the court files from his 2001 divorce. A proponent of more restrictions on abortion, DesJarlais testified that he had encouraged his first wife to have two abortions prior to their marriage, and a court transcript indicated he also had asked a patient with whom he had a sexual relationship to travel to Georgia for an abortion.

DesJarlais has remarried since. He has said voters should judge him on the basis of that relationship.

DesJarlais overcame the negative publicity last year to defeat Democrat Eric Stewart in the general election by 12 percentage points. But the disclosures have encouraged two state lawmakers - state Sen. Jim Tracy of Shelbyville and state Rep. Joe Carr of Lascassas - to challenge him in the GOP primary.

Federal filings released earlier this month showed Tracy outraised DesJarlais eight-to-one in the second quarter, while Carr took in nearly three times more in campaign contributions. Both candidates also have more money in the bank than the incumbent, a major advantage in a vast district that reaches into three television markets.

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