If DesJarlais Squeaks Out GOP Primary Win, Democratic Opponent Says She’ll Lay Off His Past

Democratic candidate Lenda Sherrill calls likely voters at her headquarters in Murfreesboro. While Sherrill hales from Monteagle, the highest concentration of voters in the 4th Congressional District is in Rutherford County. Credit: Blake Farmer / WPLN

Democratic candidate Lenda Sherrell calls likely voters at her headquarters in Murfreesboro. While Sherrell hales from Monteagle, the highest concentration of voters in the 4th Congressional District is in Rutherford County. Credit: Blake Farmer / WPLN

No official primary winner has been declared, but assuming it’s Congressman Scott DesJarlais, his opponent on the November ballot says she doesn’t plan to rehash attacks based on the incumbent’s past.

“I think, frankly, the press does a really good job of bringing that up all the time,” candidate Lenda Sherrell says. “There’s really no need for me to talk about it.”

DesJarlais’ has spent the last few years under the cloud of a messy divorce case, which revealed drug-use, affairs and even pressuring a mistress to have an abortion. State Sen. Jim Tracy’s campaign used that checkered personal history for attack ads. Apparently, it didn’t work as well as hoped, because he’s still 37 votes behind as provisional ballots are being counted one-by-one.

Sherrell, a retired accountant from Monteagle, says she has a different plan, and it has nothing to do with the skeletons in DesJarlais’ closet.

“You know, all of us – if we live long enough – we have some personal decisions that we’ve made that we regret, and I think that he has said that. I think he is interested in moving on with his life, as would any of us.”

Sherrell isn’t quite taking a vow to stay away from DesJarlais’ personal baggage. But pretty close. She plans to play up her own roots in the district. She grew up in the small town of Pleasant Hill on the Cumberland Plateau. DesJarlais, she points out, is from North Dakota.

There was no competition in the Democratic primary. Sherrell ran uncontested, securing some 22,855 votes according to unofficial totals. That compares to the nearly 34,800 votes cast for both DesJarlais and Tracy.

The 4th District, which spans from Murfreesboro to the outskirts of Chattanooga, tilts 18 points Republican, according to the Cook Political Report. So Sherrell is heavily disadvantaged. But she has been able to roughly match DesJarlais’ fundraising, which has suffered along with his reputation in GOP circles.

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