Debate in Tennessee’s bitter 4th District congressional campaign turned over the weekend to the respective candidates’ past legal problems, reports Andy Sher. Democrat Eric Stewart was sued by Citibank in November 2011 for failing to pay on nearly $5,000 in credit card debt, Franklin County General Sessions Court records show. Republican incumbent Scott DesJarlais, a physician, has a “history” of medical malpractice, state Democrats claim, citing claims in 1991 and 2004.
Citibank sued Stewart on Dec. 6, 2011, a little over a month after the state senator and insurance agent announced he was running for Congress. DesJarlais campaign manager Brandon Lewis said the lawsuit underscores a pattern of financial mismanagement that makes Stewart unqualified to tackle the nation’s debts.
“When Tennesseans are struggling to find jobs, we can’t count on someone with failed businesses, multiple IRS tax liens and warrants for unpaid personal debts,” he said. Small businesses “know that Eric Stewart’s support of Barack Obama’s policies and Obamacare will mean additional tax burdens that may put them out of business and cost Tennesseans even more jobs,” Lewis said.
Attorney Bill Shick, who represented Citibank, said Stewart settled the debt Dec. 27, 2011, but the suit wasn’t officially dropped until March 6.
…Already rocked by revelations that DesJarlais dated at least two patients while separated from his first wife, his campaign over the weekend responded to new charges by the Tennessee Democratic Party that his medical practice shows a “history of lawsuits.”
Democrats cited a 1991 malpractice suit in Kansas and Tennessee records indicating he settled a malpractice claim here in 2004.
Kansas court records show a hospital, DesJarlais and another doctor were sued in a case involving a newborn they delivered who had a severe form of cerebral palsy.
After a difficult labor, the other doctor determined a caesarian section was necessary and instructed a nurse to push the baby’s head up the birth canal to accommodate the procedure, according to a Kansas appellate court opinion.
The jury ruled in favor of DesJarlais and the other defendant, and the appellate court upheld the ruling.
And Tennessee Health Department records show DesJarlais in 1994 settled an “above average” malpractice claim of at least $75,000. The records contain no additional information, and Democrats said they could not find a publicly filed lawsuit. A Democratic Party spokesman said the actions raise issues of trust.
Reports on Republican U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais’ sexual relationship with a second patient he met as a physician have brought a new round of criticism from supporters of Eric Stewart, the Democratic nominee in the 4th Congressional District.
House Majority PAC, a group with ties to Democratic congressional leaders, announced it had purchased another $180,000 worth of television time for a new commercial criticizing the embattled congressman. That makes a total of about $280,000 spent by the group.
State Democratic Chairman Chip Forrester, meanwhile, called a news conference to declare that DesJarlais “ran his medical practice like a Craigslist cathouse” and berate the state’s Republican leaders “standing in support of Scott DesJarlais and his unethical behavior” though a “conspiracy of silence” on the controversy.
The Chattanooga Times-Free Press on Sunday quoted a woman, who was granted anonymity, as saying she had the Marion County physician had a sexual relationship 12 years ago while his divorce was pending, that they shared marijuana and that he wrote prescriptions for drugs to her at her home. An earlier report quoted a transcript of DesJarlais urging another woman, also met as a patient, to get an abortion.
DesJarlais has said that, in the first case, he believed the woman was not really pregnant and used “strong language” with the aim of having her admit it. She turned out not to be pregnant, the doctor-congressman said.
DesJarlais had no direct comment on the second report. His campaign manager sent media this email:
“The woman mentioned in this article has reached out to both the congressman’s wife and the paper to express concerns about her statements being taken out of context and factual inaccuracies contained in this article. … Rather than focusing solely on a 14-year-old divorce, why don’t they talk to the congressman’s wife, Amy, who he has been married to for more than 10 years?
“It speaks volumes that even Lincoln Davis recently said that he regretted his actions and that these types of personal smear campaigns that hurt families have no place in politics.”
Davis, the Democratic congressman DesJarlais defeated in 2010, ran ads pointing to other allegations in DesJarlais’ divorce, including his ex-wife’s claim that he threatened her and once put a pistol in his mouth. Davis, who is backing Stewart this year, has said he regrets the ads.
Meanwhile, Forrester has called on the Republican Party and elected officials to seek DesJarlais’ resignation and to condemn his actions.
“Their approval and support of DesJarlais’ unethical behavior and hypocrisy makes it painfully clear that the Tennessee Republican Party is only concerned with one thing — holding on to power,” said Forrester.
Asked for comment on the Democrat’s call, state Republican Chairman Chris Devaney sent this via email:
“We’re not going to comment further on hearsay, anonymous charges that are being leveled by a desperate candidate. Folks in the 4th District are focused on jobs and the economy, and not on stories being ginned up for political purposes by a desperate Democrat Party.”
(Note: This updates and replaces previous post.)
State Sem. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville, has begun laying the groundwork for a 2014 campaign in the 4th Congressional District, regardless of whether incumbent Republican Scott DesJarlais or Democratic challenger Eric Stewart wins this year’s contest. Andy Sher reports that political operatives and Republican legislators say Tracy has met with donors about a bid and will make a decision after the Nov. 6 election. Tracy said Friday he’s focused on “getting to know the folks in my new district and working on my re-election and helping other Republicans and Mitt Romney get elected.”
He said the questions about DesJarlais “are serious allegations and I have some concerns about it.”
DesJarlais, first elected in 2010, has acknowledged he encouraged the woman in 2000 to get an abortion. But he says he knew the woman wasn’t pregnant and he was simply trying to get her to acknowledge it. He said the relationship occurred when he and his then-wife were in divorce proceedings and had agreed they could see other people.
Prominent Republican officeholders ranging from Gov. Bill Haslam to U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann of Chattanooga have distanced themselves from DesJarlais but publicly have held their tongues.
“People are going to hold their nose and push a button one more time for DesJarlais. They don’t want [House Democrat Nancy] Pelosi to be speaker,” a senior Republican said. “But he’s going to have major primary competition” in 2014.
In 2010, before redistricting, Tracy, ran for Congress from the 6th District, coming in third in a race with Murfreesboro businesswoman Lou Ann Zelenik and state Sen. Diane Black. Black won.
GOP-controlled redistricting reshaped the 4th District with the addition of part of Bradley County and all of Rhea, Meigs and Rutherford counties plus Tracy’s home county of Bedford.
This year, legislative Republicans thought state Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Bill Ketron, of Murfreesboro, would challenge DesJarlais in this year’s primary. But the confrontation never materialized.
By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Freshman U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais received just $10,610 in contributions from individual donors in the reporting period following revelations that he once urged a mistress to seek an abortion.
The Republican congressman seeking re-election in the 4th District also reported $17,700 in receipts from political action committees for a total of about $28,300 over the course of the 17-day campaign finance reporting period, the last before the Nov. 6 election.
DesJarlais spent $304,000 in the period, led by more than $216,000 on TV advertising, nearly $52,000 on direct mail and $7,000 for polling services just days after the news about his abortion discussion emerged Oct. 10.
DesJarlais faces Democratic state Sen. Eric Stewart, whose campaign said he raised $63,700 in the reporting period.
The conversation between DesJarlais and the woman who had also been under his care as a Jasper physician took place while he was trying to reconcile with his first wife, Susan.
“You told me you’d have an abortion, and now we’re getting too far along without one,” DesJarlais told the woman who is not identified in the transcript. “If we need to go to Atlanta, or whatever, to get this solved and get it over with so we can get on with our lives, then let’s do it.”
DesJarlais, whose campaign platform includes his opposition to abortion rights, does not dispute the contents of the transcript but has argued it leaves out the context that he was trying to pressure the woman to admit that she was not pregnant. He has said there was no pregnancy and no divorce, and that he and his former wife had an agreement to see other people before the divorce was finalized in 2001.
Other than the barrage of television ads, DesJarlais has largely maintained a low profile since the abortion discussion became national news.
DesJarlais’ report shows he gave $2,000 to Mitt Romney’s campaign on Oct. 1, though that didn’t keep the Republican’s presidential campaign from quietly removing the congressman’s endorsement from its website after the details of transcript emerged nine days later.
By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
COALMONT, Tenn. — A GOP congressman’s discussion with his mistress about getting an abortion has stirred unease in his conservative, rural district, and his Democratic challenger is now trying to convert that disappointment into votes.
However, some in the 4th District are sticking by freshman Rep. Scott DesJarlais and dismissing the decade-old transcript of a phone conversation as a smear tactic.
Early voting ahead of the Nov. 6 election began Wednesday, a week after the district learned of the transcript of DesJarlais arguing with the woman, who had also been under his care as a doctor.
“It doesn’t affect my thinking,” said Alf Adams, 85, a retired lawyer from Beersheba Springs. “Because I think he’s done a good job — and I think it’s probably a smear attack.”
DesJarlais, who is seeking re-election on a conservative platform that opposes abortion rights, has acknowledged that the conversation happened and that he suggested traveling to Atlanta to get an abortion.
He explains it away by saying he used stark language to push the woman to admit she wasn’t pregnant. He claims now there was no pregnancy or abortion.
And while the transcript includes DesJarlais telling the woman he’s hoping to save his marriage, he says she shouldn’t be called his mistress because he and his wife had agreed they could date others while separated.
“I am not trying to justify my actions or say that I am without fault,” DesJarlais said in an open letter to supporters. “But I am not the hypocrite my opponents and some liberal media outlets are portraying me as.”
A Democratic super PAC has jumped into the Tennessee 4th Congressional District race with an ad slamming Republican U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais over revelations that he once had sex with a patient and encouraged her to seek an abortion, reports Andy Sher.
The House Majority PAC is spending”more than” $100,000 in the campaign and it is the first evidence that Democrats see Jasper’s DesJarlais, who has campaigned as being anti-abortion, as being vulnerable in his contest with Democrat Eric Stewart.
The group’s ad, “Trust,” begins airing this evening. “Trust and faith,” it says. “As a doctor, Scott DesJarlais earned his patients’ trust.” The ad then cuts to extensive news coverage of the abortion controversy.
View the House Majority ad HERE. “Scott DesJarlais’ incredible hypocrisy is just staggering,” said Alixandria Lapp, executive director of House Majority PAC, which is linked to House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, in a statement. “Tennesseans deserve better than Scott DesJarlais, for whom touting the values of trust and faith was nothing more than lip service.”
DesJarlais’ campaign issued a statement charging Stewart “has tried to run from his strong backing of Barack Obama and Obamacare throughout this campaign by pushing out recycled, 12-year-old garbage to keep from talking about his support of liberal policies that are killing jobs in Tennessee.”
“His out-of-state, liberal attack team that works hand in hand with Obama is now trying to hijack this race from Tennesseans — but they are too smart to fall for that.”
— Note: The Tennessee Democratic Party, meanwhile, has a web video that is being passed around on the Internet, also bashing DesJarlais. It is HERE.
— Note2: DesJarlais is currently up with an ad attacking Stewart for thinking that Obamacare” is “great,” Prior post HERE. The Tennessee Journal says the current DesJarlais ad buy is for $250,000.
Republican Rep. Scott DesJarlais is slamming Democratic rival Eric Stewart on “Obamacare” in a new television ad, but the underfunded Stewart’s fortunes may be in for a substantial change, reports Andy Sher.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee on Thursday switched Tennessee’s 4th Congressional District to its “red to blue” category, a designation indicating Democrats think it’s a winnable seat and intend to devote resources to Stewart’s battle with the Jasper physician.
Stewart announced the move Thursday in an email to supporters, saying he has “more good news” after his campaign on Wednesday released an internal poll that Stewart says shows him in a “dead heat” with DesJarlais.
… DesJarlais enjoys a huge cash-on-hand advantage over Stewart, a state senator from Winchester, and is currently pounding him in television ads over what he says is Stewart’s support of “Obamacare.” (View the ad HERE.)
…(The ad accuses Stewart) of calling the federal Affordable Care Act “great.”
“Great,” a woman announcer says, “a word used to describe a quiet moment of fishing, a [UT] Vols win, a plate of barbecue. But great is how Eric Stewart describes Obamacare. Bureaucrat between patient and doctor — great. $700 billion in Medicare cuts — great. … There are a lot of great things in Tennessee, but Eric Stewart and Obamacare are not one of them.”
The ad cites a Times Free Press article from this summer in which Stewart said repeal of the law would kill popular provisions such as one that fills in a gap in Medicare drug coverage for seniors known as the “doughnut hole.”
Repeal, Stewart said, also would allow insurance companies to continue denying coverage to people with pre-existing medical conditions and parents wouldn’t be allowed to keep their children on their plans until age 26.
“Given all those great things that are in it, no, I wouldn’t vote to repeal it,” Stewart said. “Now, it still needs some work. … What we need are leaders who can go up there and do the job they were sent to do and that’s work together and solve the problems.”
Republican U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais’ poll ratings among likely voters in the 4th Congressional District have plunged enough to leave him in a “dead heat” with Democrat Eric Stewart, according to a poll conducted for Stewart’s campaign.
Pollster Andrew Myers credited the DesJarlais drop to publicity surrounding a conversation the Jasper physician had 12 years ago with a former patient about their sexual relationship and an abortion. DesJarlais has said the woman was not actually pregnant and there was no abortion.
The poll of 400 voters, conducted Oct. 14-15, showed DesJarlais still ahead, 49 percent to 44 percent. That was an 11-point drop for DesJarlais since a June poll, Myers said. He said the poll’s margin of error is 4.9 percent.
“This has become an extremely competitive race. It has become a dead heat,” Myers said in a telephone news conference.
The same poll showed Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romey leading Barack Obama 56 percent to 38 percent in the district and respondents showing a “generic” preference for Republicans over Democrats by a 52 percent to 39 percent margin, Myers said.
DesJarlais’ decline was especially severe among voters who said they attended church at least weekly and among women, Myers said.
Romney had a 30-point lead among regular church attendees, he said, while DesJarlais had just an 11 point lead. He said there was “a profound gender gap” with women now favoring Stewart over DesJarlais while more men still prefer the Republican.
— Note: Press release and polling memo below.
Republican U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais held a better than 7-to-1 cash advantage over Democratic challenger Eric Stewart as of Sept. 30 and is using it to dominate the television airwaves in their 4th Congressional District contest, reports Andy Sher. DesJarlais’ campaign declared Tuesday that Stewart is “running on fumes” with campaign manager Brandon Lewis saying, “Eric Stewart is a strong supporter of Barack Obama, a proponent of Obamacare and believes in the liberal borrow and spend policies that have exploded our national debt and ruined our economy.”
But Stewart campaign manager Kevin Teets retorted the campaign has seen a major turnaround since last week. That was when it was revealed that DesJarlais once encouraged a woman with whom he had had a relationship to get an abortion.
“We’ve seen a huge momentum in involvement, donations and support,” Stewart campaign manager Kevin Teets said Tuesday DesJarlais, a Jasper physician who touts his opposition to abortion, has acknowledged the 2000 transcript of the recorded conversation with the woman is genuine.
…The finance disclosures, filed Monday with the Federal Election Commission, cover the period from July 14 through Sept. 30. DesJarlais reported a $599,163 balance while state Sen. Stewart of Winchester disclosed just $84,849 on hand.
DesJarlais raised $193,477 while Stewart report $114,619 in contributions.
Since the disclosure period ended, DesJarlais has jumped onto Chattanooga and Nashville broadcast media with around $160,000 in ad buys, his campaign confirmed, noting Stewart has made buys only amounting to about $26,000.
The chairman of the Tennessee Conservative Union said Monday he’s talking with other Republican-leaning groups and exploring whether to demand U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., resign from Congress.
Reports the Chattanooga TFP: The move comes as the 4th Congressional District lawmaker and candidate finds himself under growing fire following revelations that as a physician 12 years ago he pressed a former patient with whom he had been involved sexually to get an abortion.
Tennessee Conservative Union Chairman Lloyd Daugherty in an interview declined to identify the other organizations with which he has been speaking. He said his goal is building a “coalition” in support of the congressman’s ouster.
“We’re very upset that he’s broken his medical creed and the trust of the citizens of his district,” said Daugherty, who two years ago endorsed then-U.S. Rep. Lincoln Davis, D-Tenn., whom DesJarlais beat in an upset.
The group usually backs Republicans.
In a statement Monday night, the Jasper lawmaker said his Democratic opponent, Eric Stewart, “supports Barack Obama for president and thinks Obamacare is great for Tennessee.”
“I’ll stand on my conservative record of lower taxes, reduced deficits, and repealing Obamacare. Mr. Daugherty supported Lincoln Davis last election cycle, so Eric Stewart would be a consistent choice for him — but not for true conservatives.”