Incumbent 4th District Congressman Scott DesJarlais is confident his slim lead in the Republican primary over opponent Jim Tracy will hold up as provisional votes are counted and results certified, but he is also consulting with some of the country’s top election lawyers if there is a challenge.
“We want to protect the integrity of the process and when it’s a close election like this, we don’t know what the other party is going to do in this case,” DesJarlais told News 2 Saturday, just 36 hours after 100 percent of the precincts showed him with a 35-vote margin over challenger Jim Tracy. “Unfortunately you have to reach out to make sure you are properly represented.”
The congressman knows there are still several dozen provisional ballots cast, but he thinks the chances of overturning the outcome is small.
“The electronic balloting is pretty secure, so those 35 votes, as small as that is, should stand,” said DesJarlais from his Jasper, Tennessee office where he practiced medicine before running for Congress for the first time in 2010.
He did not think the few dozen provisional ballots still to be counted could change the outcome.
Instead, he predicted that the 35-vote margin “could move a little bit. I am thinking plus or minus ten either way. If you win by one or ten thousand, it’s still a win.”
The two-term congressman said he did not see the live version Thursday of Senator Tracy proclaiming victory, but he wondered why his opponent did that with only a few hundred vote lead and tallies from several counties to still be reported.
“It’s no secret that Jim has wanted to get to Washingtonian for about six years now, sold his house, sold his business, and probably packed his bags so I guess he was just a little over anxious,” DesJarlais said with a smile.
His manner turned more serious about his opponent as he talked about the wait while county election commissions certify the results and provisional votes counted.
“I hope that when the numbers are finalized and if it turns out our way, I would hope he would call and I concede the race as opposed to challenging it, but we’ll see what he decides to do,” added the congressman.
Senator Tracy has given no indication of what he might do, since he has five days when the race is certified by the state to decide if would challenge that results.
A statement released by his campaign Friday night stated,“There are still ballots to be counted as we go through the certification process.”
Many pundits gave DesJarlais little chance of re-election after more details were reported about the congressman’s divorce from his first wife ten years before he ran for office.
Court documents indicated he had encouraged his then wife to have an abortion and that he slept with one of his patients while separated from his spouse.
The divorce, although not mentioned directly, was featured prominently in Senator Tracy’s political ads, where words like “hypocrisy” and “deliberately deceived the voters” were used.
DesJarlais, who has been married for 12 years to his second wife, just shook his head and said, “We have gotten used to it.”
One thing he hopes not to get used to is his treatment for neck cancer.
One such chemotherapy took place Friday morning just hours after his late night unofficial victory.
“I am doing great. We are a little more than a third of the way through it,” said DesJarlais. “It’s a process. I take it a day at a time, but so far, so good.”
Perhaps those words might also apply to his bid for a third term in Congress.
- August 7, 2014: DesJarlais camp consulting with Bush v. Gore lawyers