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VOL. 36 | NO. 52 | Friday, December 28, 2012

State Sen. Tracy announces challenge to DesJarlais

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MURFREESBORO (AP) - State Sen. Jim Tracy officially announced Wednesday that he will run for the congressional seat held by fellow Republican U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, saying the embattled lawmaker has deceived his constituents and needs to be replaced with a more trustworthy representative.

Tracy, an insurance agent and former college basketball referee, was joined by other Republican lawmakers and local officials at a pharmacy in Murfreesboro. His speech was interrupted by applause at least twice as he touted his conservative values and alluded to the scandal surrounding DesJarlais.

"I promise that I will never embarrass you with my personal conduct or compromise on my conservative principles," Tracy said. "I'm a conservative in word and deed. I'm 100 percent pro-life."

DesJarlais, a Jasper physician, won a second term in Congress in November despite revelations he had sexual relationships with patients and urged one to seek an ab ortion. DesJarlais has rejected calls for his resignation.

When asked about Tracy's challenge, DesJarlais spokesman Robert Jameson said in a statement that the congressman is focused on other matters.

"Right now Congressman DesJarlais is completely focused on the job he was elected to do by residents of the Fourth District: Ending the deficit spending, repealing ObamaCare and returning our government to its proper constitutional role."

Republican state Rep. Joe Carr also is considering challenging DesJarlais in the 4th Congressional District.

Tracy, who considered a congressional bid last year, has long expressed his concerns over the allegations against DesJarlais, saying Washington "requires someone of integrity and character."

He reiterated that belief Wednesday.

"A place like Washington, D.C., requires someone ... of good character," said Tracy, whose congressional leadership team includes Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey and former Gov. Winf ield Dunn. "Scott DesJarlais has betrayed and deceived his constituents. America's programs are too great to have our leader pre-occupied with their own personal scandals."

Tracy ran for Congress in 2010 before his county was moved from the 6th District. He came in third behind Murfreesboro businesswoman Lou Ann Zelenik and state Sen. Diane Black, the eventual winner, in a GOP primary contest separated by 566 votes.

Republican state Sen. Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro, a longtime colleague and friend of Tracy, said he's glad the Shelbyville Republican is challenging DesJarlais.

"I just feel like Jim represents my values, and I think he'll do a good job," Ketron said.

Despite persevering through the scandal to win a second term in Congress, recent records show DesJarlais all but exhausted his campaign account.

He spent $1.25 million on his campaign to defeat Democratic challenger Eric Stewart and was left with $15,660 on hand when the dust settled.

During his 2010 and 2012 campaigns, DesJarlais tried to cast doubt on reports of violent behavior and multiple affairs before his divorce was finalized in 2001. But court transcripts released the week after the November election showed he admitted to eight affairs, encouraged a lover to get an abortion and used a gun to intimidate his ex-wife during an argument.

The sworn testimony also revealed for the first time that the congressman had agreed when his ex-wife had two abortions. DesJarlais publicly opposes abortion rights.

The Tennessee Department of Health has begun an investigation into a complaint filed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington that DesJarlais should be disciplined for conducting an inappropriate sexual relationship with a patient. The watchdog group has also filed an ethics complaint in the U.S. House.