Rep. Scott DesJarlais launches re-election campaign

3:12 PM, Aug 7, 2013   |    comments
Scott DesJarlais
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By Chas Sisk / The Tennessean

WINCHESTER - U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais launched his bid for a third term Wednesday, touting his votes in Washington and acknowledging the personal attacks that are likely to characterize the Republican primary.

About 100 people braved threatening skies at the Franklin County Courthouse to show their support for the South Pittsburg Republican, holding signs, American flags and umbrellas through a rushed program.

The event came on the same day that National Journal, a magazine that tracks congressional politics, rated DesJarlais the most likely incumbent in Congress to lose his primary next year.

DesJarlais faces state Rep. Joe Carr of Lascassas and state Sen. Jim Tracy of Shelbyville in the 4th Congressional District's GOP primary. Each of the others drew similarly sized crowds to his election announcement.

DesJarlais got big cheers by promising to continue to oppose the Affordable Care Act, saying he plans to add to the 40 votes the House of Representatives have held against the coming health care reform program. DesJarlais also received a cheer of support as he implicitly addressed revelations about his personal life disclosed in his 2001 divorce proceedings.

Those records indicate that DesJarlais threatened his wife and himself with a handgun during a fight with his ex-wife, made a mutual decision to abort two pregnancies with her, encouraged a patient with whom he had a sexual relationship to have an abortion and prescribed pain medication to another patient that he dated. DesJarlais says he has moved past that period of his life and has a stable marriage with his wife, Amy, who was on hand for Wednesday's announcement.

"It's no secret that my opponents and the media love to pick apart mistakes I made in the '90s, long before I ever decided to run for Congress," he said. "We've come to realize that 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 or the way I do my job as a congressman."

DesJarlais also spoke with reporters after the event for one of the first times since his divorce records were released last November. Standing on the square as the skies opened up, DesJarlais offered short, well-prepared responses to a number of questions, including his uphill battle to win re-election.

"This will be my fifth race, and I guess I've made a career out of being underestimated," he said.

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