DesJarlais Looks Past Primary to November

About 60 percent of voters in the 4th Congressional District were in a different district two years ago when U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais won his first term, reports Chas Sisk. His challenger in the Republican primary is one of them.
But DesJarlais is pretty much already looking past the primary to a November match with state Sen. Eric Stewart, who is unopposed for the Democratic nod.
Only Shannon Kelley, a Murfreesboro resident who flies for Southwest Airlines, signed up to run against DesJarlais in the Aug. 2 primary. Kelley says he was motivated to enter the race not because he dislikes DesJarlais, but because he wanted to give Rutherford County residents the option of electing a local.
“I don’t have a problem with the incumbent. He has a good voting record,” said Kelley. “We’ve wanted a representative from this county, and I wanted to offer that choice to people.”
Republicans dominate local offices in Rutherford County and likely hold the edge districtwide, but Democrats believe they can make inroads.
They point to a poll done for the Stewart campaign that showed only 54 percent of likely voters recognized DesJarlais by name and that only about 30 percent were committed to voting for him again.
“Scott DesJarlais has not done anything to keep jobs from going from places like Tennessee to places like China,” Stewart said. “He’s proved he’s out of touch.”
Still a relative newcomer to politics, DesJarlais believes anti-Washington sentiment will not work against him. He points to the some of those votes that upset the Republican establishment last year as evidence.
“I’m not sure the anti-incumbent mood is quite the same as it was in 2010,” he said. “People can look at how I voted as an independent conservative.”
DesJarlais is already swinging back at Stewart. He says Stewart would not vote to roll back the Affordable Care Act, with DesJarlais’ campaign pointing to Stewart’s vote against a state measure that sought to exempt Tennessee residents from the health insurance mandate as evidence
…Democrats attack DesJarlais for his use of congressional mailing privileges. Citing House records, the Stewart campaign says DesJarlais has spent $455,308.30 on mailers and other communications, the second-most among House members during the 107th Congress.
DesJarlais defends the practice, saying his mailings often include surveys and other solicitations for feedback from his constituents.
“It is a very rural, expansive district,” he said. “I plan to be proactive in constituent outreach … and mail is one of the most efficient ways to do that.”
The mailings will be of limited use to DesJarlais this November. By law, congressmen can send mail only to people who live in the district they represent, which until the end of this year is the old 4th District.

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