Zelenik seeks to shore up tea party support for DesJarlais

Chas Sisk has done a rundown on the 4th Congressional District Republican primary, including a move by Lou Ann Zelenik to shore up support for incumbent Scott DesJarlais over the currently favored challenger, state Sen. Jim Tracy.

The veteran state senator launched his campaign for Congress nearly a year and a half ago, but he has spent most of his time tying up the endorsements of prominent Republican leaders, tapping donors for contributions and keeping his spending low.

The next two months will show whether Tracy, a former high school baseball coach and college basketball referee, has drawn up the right game plan. It would take a major shift in fortunes for him to lose.

Tracy says his campaign is running much better than four years ago, when he came close to joining DesJarlais as a freshman in Congress. He finished third in what was then the 6th Congressional District, less than a percentage point behind winner Diane Black and runner-up Lou Ann Zelenik.

Zelenik, who continues to wield influence in tea party circles, now says she’ll try to mobilize activists on DesJarlais’ behalf. Whether that will shake up the race remains to be seen.

“Jim’s raised a lot of money,” Zelenik said. “I think it’s going to take steadfast support to get him (DesJarlais) over.”

After a decade in the state legislature, Tracy’s weakness could be a long legislative record, which includes votes and statements on everything from abortion to education to President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus package. His past positions can seem at odds with his current ones.

An experienced politician, Tracy has answers ready. And he will have the upper hand in placing those answers before the voters in the 4th Congressional District, which stretches from the southern border of Davidson County to the eastern suburbs of Chattanooga, across 16 counties and through three media markets.

Tracy has raised more than $1.2 million. He had spent just over $300,000 through March, mainly on advisers, leaving him with more than $900,000 in the bank. DesJarlais has less than $200,000 on hand.