DesJarlais bashes ‘liberal Lenda;’ experts say Sherrell can’t win in 4th District

Democrat Lenda Sherrell may have raised more money than controversy-plagued 4th District Republican Congressman Scott DesJarlais, but experts agree she has no chance of beating him, reports the Chattanooga Times-Free Press in a review of the campaign.Sherrell, of course, disagrees.

“I haven’t seen a shred of data in the district that would indicate she has a chance,” said David Wasserman, U.S. House editor for the Washington-based, nonpartisan The Cook Political Report. “People get wrapped up in who raises more money. We know that Scott DesJarlais isn’t attracting a lot of donors this cycle and yet he still was able to win the [GOP] primary” against state Sen. Jim Tracy.

…DesJarlais, rated the fourth-most-conservative House member, faces Sherrell in the largely rural, mostly white district that stretches from Cleveland in the east to Murfreesboro in the west and has a decided Republican tilt.

Sherrell, a Cumberland County native who is the daughter of a rural letter carrier and a teacher, is a certified public accountant who worked for several large health care companies. She retired after a dozen years as comptroller for McCallie School in Chattanooga.

…Sherrell cut her political teeth the past few years by working as a volunteer district head of Organizing for America, a national grass-roots group with ties to Obama that has backed efforts like the Affordable Care Act.

As someone who has developed multimillion-dollar budgets, she said, she’d like to take a pen to the federal budget.

She said she got into the race in January, after taking a hard look at the 4th District’s demographics. It’s a winnable race, Sherrell said. A third of the voters are moderates who tend to vote for the candidate and not the party, Sherrell noted. Another figure she cites: 54 percent of adults are women, “sort of a natural constituency,” said Sherrell.

…Last week, the DesJarlais campaign hit Sherrell in a direct-mail piece labeling her “Liberal Lenda” and citing her work in Organizing for America. Jameson said it’s fair to link Sherrell with Obama, noting, “the president said while he’s not on the ballot this time, his policies are, and many of his policies are embodied in Lenda Sherrell.”

Wasserman said voters in the conservative district are “loath to send anyone with a ‘D’ next to their name to Washington as long as Obama is president.”

Kent Syler, a political science professor at Middle Tennessee State University, said Sherrell has proven to be “a very good candidate who has raised an impressive amount of money.”

“But it is still a very steep climb,” Syler said.