Republicans began talking seriously about a 2014 primary challenge to Rep. Scott DesJarlais two years ago, even before he’d finished locking down reelection to the 4th Congressional District. That’s because scandal had broken after the 2012 primary but before the general election. DesJarlais had reportedly had an affair with a patient during his time as a practicing physician. What’s more, the pro-life conservative had pressured his mistress to have an abortion. DesJarlais was able to weather the storm when his only opponent was a little-known Democrat, but others in his party quickly began moving to take their next chance against the Jasper physician, and those efforts never let up.
Here’s a Timeline of the Race:
October 22, 2012
Multiple attack ads jump on the scandal, calling DesJarlais a “hypocrite” and urging him to resign rather than continue his reelection campaign.
November 2, 2012
Governor Bill Haslam distances himself from fellow Republican DesJarlais
November 7, 2012
DesJarlais elected to second term, although the count is close enough that difficulty counting some of the votes in Rutherford County means the incumbent isn’t comfortable declaring victory for hours after most precincts are reported.
In his speech, DesJarlais refers to another scandal that arose during his first campaign, in which his opponent brought up statements from his divorce records indicating DesJarlais had physically threatened his first wife.
We’ve endured. The methods that were used in the last election didn’t work and they didn’t work this time.
November 23, 2012
Several Republicans say they’re considering a primary challenge in 2014, including State Senator Jim Tracy of Shelbyville.
November 30, 2012
DesJarlais asks for forgiveness on Ralph Bristol’s talk radio show
But I know God’s forgiven me. I simply ask my fellow Christians and constituents to doing the same for me. So, I don’t think I was intentionally misleading anybody.
December 20, 2012
State representative Joe Carr of Lascassas confirms he’s exploring a challenge to DesJarlais
April 16, 2013
Potential primary challengers Carr and Tracy each outraise the incumbent in their initial fundraising attempts
May 21, 2013
High-profile campaign manager Chip Saltsman signs onto Carr’s campaign
DesJarlais officially kicks off his reelection campaign
August 2, 2013
Carr leaves the race to run instead against U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander. That means all of the “vote out DesJarlais” support defaults to Tracy.
November , 2013
Roll Call includes DesJarlais on list of 10 Most Vulnerable House Members.
If there was a No. 1 on this list, it would be DesJarlais. Bombshell revelations about his personal life are all but sure to sink him next year. His widely reported 2001 divorce proceedings show the self-described anti-abortion-rights conservative encouraged his former wife and former mistress to have multiple abortions.
January 2, 2014
Jim Tracy officially enters the race against Scott DesJarlais
January 7, 2014
Tracy receives backing of Tennessee legislators at the top of the GOP ranks: Speaker of the House Beth Harwell, House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada and House Speaker Pro Tempore Curtis Johnson all join Tracy’s leadership team.
February 24, 2014
At least 18 DesJarlais donors reportedly switch allegiance to Tracy
April 5, 2014
Conservative talk show host Michael DelGiorno endorses DesJarlais
June 2, 2014
Tennesseean declares Tracy has advantage over DesJarlais
June 8-10, 2014
Tracy unveils three ads. None refer to DesJarlais, but two pointedly position Tracy as a candidate with “integrity” who knows how to keep his word.
June 12, 2014
The good news for DesJarlais: a poll shows some voters don’t hold the abortion scandal against him. The bad news: plenty still do.
June 27, 2014
Citizens for Ethics In Government poll shows DesJarlais leads Tracy 45-20
July 13, 2014
A direct mailing from Tracy reminds voters of DesJarlais’ abortion scandal
July 17, 2014
The day before early voting begins, DesJarlais introduces an ad painting himself as having conservative track record while claiming Tracy is a disconnected, establishment politician who supported President Obama’s health care and education initiatives as well as raising taxes.
July 30, 2014
A new ad from Tracy goes full bore, naming the abortion scandal and claiming it makes DesJarlais ineffective.
By every measure, Tracy’s financials–a key indicator of support from the politically involved–have outperformed DesJarlais’ throughout the campaign. See a comparison in the chart below: