It looks as though 4th District Congressman Scott DesJarlais may have defied the political odds. A vote tally from the Tennessee Secretary of State has DesJarlais with a 35 vote lead in his race for re-election against primary challenger Jim Tracy.
Tracy, a state senator from Shelbyville, claimed victory just before 9 p.m., raising his fist in the air and declaring, “We did it!” But the last precincts to turn in results came from Grundy County, considered a DesJarlais stronghold. Votes there allowed the two-term Congressman to overtake Tracy in the unofficial results.
“There are ballots left to be counted in the Fourth District Republican primary,” a statement released from the Tracy campaign said early Friday. “We eagerly await the final outcome once the counting is completed and verified.”
A half hour before midnight, a DesJarlais supporter stepped out of two wooden doors with the news. “The Secretary of State goes for Desjarlais,” he shouted to a cheering crowd in South Pittsburgh. It marked an incredible political swing for the representative dubbed earlier this year as the incumbent “most likely to lose.”
It seemed a no-brainer to count DesJarlais out of the race. Revelations from a divorce years ago showed the physician and vocal anti-abortion opponent, had supported two abortions by his first wife, had affairs with patients and urged a mistress to have an abortion. His fundraising support ran dry and congressional colleagues distanced themselves. DesJarlais said God had forgiven him and asked voters to do the same. He touted his credentials as the fourth most conservative congressman.
“I think alot of folks get attacked while they are serving in office, but we sure took a lot of heat for things that happened long before we decided to run,” DesJarlais told his thrilled supporters Thursday night. More than anything he seemed relieved. He announced last month that he has neck cancer, and his next round of chemotherapy is Friday.