Rep. Scott DesJarlais, the Tennessee Republican who came under fire in 2012 after unearthed divorce proceedings revealed he encouraged an ex-wife to have two abortions , is contending with the scandal again, days out from the Volunteer State primary.
State Sen. Jim Tracy, the top Republican challenging DesJarlais in the Aug. 7 GOP primary in the 4th District, is airing a scathing ad in the final two weeks of the contest. It's on the airwaves during the pivotal early voting period, which began July 18 and runs through Aug. 2.
“The press says Congressman DesJarlais no longer has credibility,” a narrator says in the 30-second spot. “Reprimanded, fined for unethical conduct, he deliberately deceived the voters. Conservatives said DesJarlais should resign because of his hypocrisy. Scandal makes DesJarlais ineffective in Washington.”
The ad is airing on both cable and broadcast in the Nashville and Chattanooga media markets until the primary, according to Tracy's campaign.
The ad references other parts of the scandal, including the fact DesJarlais had multiple romantic affairs with patients and co-workers — an infraction that earned him a $500 fine from a medical board. DesJarlais opposes abortion rights.
The scandal was revealed in October 2012, but DesJarlais won re-election over a little-known Democratic opponent in this heavily Republican district. This cycle, DesJarlais faces a top Republican primary opponent in Tracy, and GOP operatives seem doubtful DesJarlais would return to Congress .
Despite his foibles and poor campaign fundraising , DesJarlais still has a shot in the primary, Tennessee Republican strategists said. DesJarlais reported $113,000 in the bank as of July 18.
The Republican who wins on Aug. 7 is the heavy favorite to carry this seat in November. GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney won the district in 2012 with 65 percent.
Tennessee's 4th District is rated a Safe Republican contest by the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call.