|Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-TN)|
The real story, though, was that Scott DesJarlais, the two-term Republican incumbent who has been scandal-tarred in the past 2.5 years was hanging on to a 33-vote lead. DesJarlais, who rode the Republican wave four years ago and defeated longtime incumbent Democrat Lincoln Davis, encountered a series of scandals in 2012 when his very ugly divorce papers were made public. It was alleged that DesJarlais, who has been a staunchly pro-life advocate in public office, pushed for his wife and mistresses to get abortions, and that he was violent with his wife. It was further alleged that he had affairs with his patients and that he used his prescription pad to prescribe marijuana for one of his mistress/patients. Essentially it’s the sort of stuff that lands you in prison, not Congress.
And yet he is currently in the lead. It doesn’t quite frankly matter if his opponent State Sen. Jim Tracy ends up pulling ahead or not-this is unacceptable for such a human being. It’s not like DesJarlais has a particularly robust history in the district as an elected official (before 2010, he’d never held office). It’s not like he was a truly great campaigner or fundraiser (Tracy, in fact, had more Cash-on-Hand than DesJarlais). It’s not that Tracy is a gadfly candidate (he is the Assistant Floor Leader for the Republicans). There is simply no excuse for him winning this race.
I’m not going to sit here and judge DesJarlais for pushing for abortions for his wife (though of course, that should be her choice ultimately, not his), but to do that privately well espousing differently publicly is just the same as anti-gay politicians who are on the DL. It’s unacceptable to not practice what you preach in such a blatant, black-and-white way when you’re a politician. I find it appalling that a doctor who slept with his patients votes on all of our laws. It’s terrible, but the worst part about this isn’t DesJarlais-it’s the voters of that district.
This is not a particularly competitive district since redistricting (even in the height of his scandal two years ago, DesJarlais still won by twelve-points over the Democrat), so whichever Republican emerges from this will be victorious, which makes this result all the more upsetting. People frequently complain about the corruption of their elected officials, but here we had a perfect opportunity for people to correct that. I don’t know much about Jim Tracy, but I do know that he’s just as conservative as DesJarlais is, so the ideological purity test is passed here. He’s just as certain (if not more so) to hold the seat for the Republicans in November; this is not a Susan Collins situation where a more conservative option may cost them the seat. DesJarlais’s two terms carry little to no weight when it comes to seniority (if he were a senator with two terms I might hear you out, but in the House that means nothing). There is no reason at all that Republicans in the district should have kept someone whose personal life they so vehemently disagree with in office.