DesJarlais’ Primary Opponent Sees an Opportunity

Scott DesJarlais, a first-term Republican congressman who was elected in the GOP tidal wave of 2010, tells Michael Collins he’s approaching his re-election campaign much the same way he approached his first race two years ago.
He faces Shannon Kelley, a Southwest Airlines pilot who lives in Murfreesboro, in the Republican primary on Aug. 2. The winner will face state Sen. Eric Stewart, a Democrat from Belvidere in Franklin County, in November.
Though DesJarlais is considered the heavy favorite in the primary, the race will pose some challenges for him.
The 4th Congressional District shrank from 24 to 16 counties when the state legislature redrew congressional maps earlier this year. Fourteen counties were stripped out of the district, and six new counties were added. The remapping means roughly 400,000 of the district’s 700,000 voters are new to the district.
“It will be a bit of a challenge to build name ID in the new counties,” DesJarlais concedes. But he said he intends “to be aggressive and very proactive.”
Kelley, who has never held public office, thinks the newly reconfigured district provides an opening for him in what otherwise looks like a long-shot campaign.
“That is a part of the district that does not know Scott,” Kelley said.
Kelley, 39, said he thinks DesJarlais sometimes focuses too much on the economic impact of legislation instead of looking at the real cause of the nation’s problems, which he says is a lack of moral principles and self-reliance.
But in general, “I think he has had a fairly good voting record,” Kelley said. “What I am doing is I am offering people from District Four another option.”

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