At least 18 donors to U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais have pledged money, support or both to the congressman’s opponent, adding to a growing list of defections amid personal scandals and political fallout, according to the Chattanooga TFP. Along with 25 state legislators, the 18 DesJarlais donors publicly have endorsed state Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville, in the 2014 Republican primary for the 4th District. Tracy is the only candidate so far to challenge the Jasper, Tenn., physician, whose re-election campaign and victory celebration were rocked by revelations from his long-ago divorce.
“I was not aware they’d given to DesJarlais,” Tracy said in a recent interview. “I didn’t go back and check, to be honest with you. I just called people.”
Interviews with donors established a common dichotomy: public praise for Tracy and private disappointment in DesJarlais. The former supporters simply don’t see their congressman the same way after salacious revelations spurred ethics complaints and a collective cold shoulder from current and former Republican officials,
Republican state Sen. Jim Tracy’s first major fundraiser for his 4th Congressional District bid is set for March 14 in Murfreesboro, reports the Chattanooga Times-Free Press.
Former Gov. Winfield Dunn; Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey; Senate Speaker Pro Tempore Bo Watson, R-Hixson; and Rep. Ron Travis, R-Dayton, are among the honorary hosts. The per-person price of a ticket is $250 while tickets for members of the sponsor committee are $2,500 per person or couple and $1,000 for host committee members.
Dr. Warren McPherson and his wife, Beverly, are holding the event in their home.
Tracy, of Shelbyville, is running against U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., a physician whose past personal controversies have made him vulnerable to challenge, Republicans say. State Rep. Joe Carr, R-Lacassas, also is weighing a bid, but Tracy has been the first challenger to announce officially
By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Legislation that would require schools and other organizations conducting youth athletic programs in Tennessee to adopt concussion policies is headed to the floor of the Senate.
The measure sponsored by Republican Sen. Jim Tracy of Shelbyville (SB882) was approved 8-0 in the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday and now goes to the full Senate. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, in the House.
The measure is similar to laws passed in 42 other states and the District of Columbia that include provisions requiring students to be removed from sporting events and evaluated if they show signs of having a concussion.
NFL senior vice president Adolpho Birch, who oversees law and labor policy for the league, testified before the committee. He said the league supports such legislation and hopes all states will eventually adopt similar measures.
Under the proposal, schools are required to “adopt guidelines … as approved by the department of health to inform and educate coaches, school administrators, youth athletes and their parents or guardians of the nature, risk and symptoms of concussion and head injury, including continuing to play after concussion or head injury.”
News release from Senate Republican Caucus:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — State Senator Jim Tracy’s (R-Shelbyville) bill to curb abuse of purchases made through Electronic Benefit Transaction (EBT) cards used by recipients of the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program sailed through the Senate Health and Welfare Committee today. Senate Bill 244 prohibits use of a welfare recipient’s EBT card in liquor stores, adult cabarets and casinos or gambling facilities.
“It is outrageous that these benefit cards, which are meant to help feed families with children in times of desperate need, are reported to have been misused for purchases like alcohol, gambling and adult cabarets,” said Senator Tracy. “Tennessee law should make it perfectly clear that we will not tolerate this fraudulent use of taxpayer money.”
The legislation comes after a report was released last summer by the Beacon Center of Tennessee, which uncovered numerous examples of abuse by welfare recipients. The Center reported one transaction at a liquor store totaling $790.
Under the bill, welfare recipients who use EBT benefits at liquor stores, adult cabarets, or gambling establishments would be subject to disqualification from the program as permitted by federal law and also would have those misused benefits recouped by the Tennessee Department of Human Services. The legislation also prescribes civil penalties to businesses that sell those products and accept EBT benefits as payment in violation of the law. The fine for a violation by the seller would be $1000 for the first violation, $2500 for the second violation within five years, and $5000 for a third or subsequent violation within five years.
In addition, the bill bans the use of EBT benefits at an ATM located inside a liquor store, adult cabaret, casino or gambling establishment.
“I’m proud to sponsor this bill and help reform the welfare system in Tennessee,” said Senator Tracy. “We need to continue to make sure that taxpayer money is used appropriately and I applaud the Department of Human Services for working with me on this bill.”
“Many taxpayers struggle to make ends meet and to pay their taxes,” added Beacon Center CEO Justin Owen. “The selfish misuse of the welfare system undermines those who truly need and utilize temporary assistance lawfully and causes widespread public distrust in government services. Taxpayers should not tolerate it.”
— Note: Previous post (noting the easure is scaled back from the original version HERE.
Several proposed restrictions on the use of electronic benefit transfer cards have been dropped from proposed legislation so that it will conform with federal law, prompting complaints from some senators.
As originally filed, SB244 declared that the EBT cards, used as a debit card to provide welfare payments and food stamps, could not be used in businesses primarily selling tobacco products, tattoos or “psychic services.” Those references were deleted in an amendment presented to the Senate Health and Welfare Committee last week at the urging of state Department of Human Services officials.
Remaining are provisions covering liquor stores, “adult cabarets” and “casinos or gaming establishments.”
Nathalie Essex, assistant general counsel for the Department of Human Services, told the committee that a law enacted by Congress last year specifically authorizes states to impose the remaining restrictions, but declares states going beyond the authorization can lose federal funds. Legislative staff says the original version would “jeopardize” almost $10 million in federal money now sent to the state.
State Sen. Jim Tracy defended himself Wednesday against House Democrats who say his legislation requiring women to undergo ultrasounds before abortion is a politically motivated move that would invade doctor-patient relationships, reports the Daily News Journal. “The protection of human life and the unborn is very important to me,” said Tracy, a Shelbyville Republican who represents a portion of Rutherford County. He added he believes in the measure “from the bottom of my heart.”
Tracy, who announced he is running against U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, a Jasper physician, in the 2014 Republican primary for the 4th District that includes Rutherford County, contends the bill is consistent with his views and is simply an effort to inform pregnant women before they make a “life-altering decision.”
When he announced his candidacy last month at Reeves-Sain Drug Store in Murfreesboro, Tracy made note of his 100 percent pro-life voting record and accused DesJarlais of deceiving voters in last year’s election.
Records made public after the vote showed that DesJarlais agreed for his former wife to have two abortions.
— UPDATE Note: See also Andy Sher’s report on the same subject.
News release from House Democratic Caucus:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – House Democrats are denouncing legislation filed by Sen. Jim Tracy (R-14) which would intrude on the doctor-patient relationship and violate patient privacy. The bill, SB632, would require that a woman seeking to terminate a pregnancy be forced to undergo a medically unnecessary ultrasound procedure. If the woman declines to view the image of the ultrasound, the doctor would be forced to describe the fetus while the woman listens.
“Tennessee’s women should not have to suffer more intrusive laws that violate their right to privacy just so Sen. Tracy can polish his conservative credentials in his race against Congressman Scott DesJarlais,” said Rep. Sherry Jones (D-59). “Republicans have spent the past three years complaining about how the government shouldn’t stand between a patient and their doctor, but with this legislation, that is exactly what they are trying to do.”
SB632 is nearly identical to a law passed in 2010 by the Oklahoma State Legislature. Oklahoma HB2780 required the doctor to perform an ultrasound and describe the fetus to the patient. In December of 2012, the Oklahoma Supreme Court upheld a lower court decision that declared this law unconstitutional per the Oklahoma State Constitution.
“If Sen. Tracy is truly interested in preventing abortions, he should take the money that we will have to pay to defend this potentially unconstitutional law, and put it towards preventative contraception, prenatal health care, and pre-K education,” said Rep. Gloria Johnson (D-13). “As a woman and a teacher, I wish my fellow legislators would focus less time on trying to play doctor, and more time on helping women gain access to quality health care, a good education, and higher-paying jobs.”
SB632: As introduced, requires that an ultrasound be performed prior to an abortion, with an exception for medical emergencies. – Amends TCA Title 39, Chapter 15; Title 63, Chapter 6; Title 63, Chapter 9 and Title 68, Chapter 11. http://wapp.capitol.tn.gov/apps/BillInfo/Default.aspx?BillNumber=SB0632&ga=108
Oklahoma HB2780 requires that women seeking an abortion undergo a fetal ultrasound procedure, and requires doctors to describe the fetus to the patient. http://webserver1.lsb.state.ok.us/cf_pdf/2009-10%20ENR/hB/HB2780%20ENR.PDF
Oklahoma Case No. CV – 2010 – 533: Nova Health Systems v. E Scott Pruitt. Oklahoma court case finding HB2780 unconstitutional. http://dl.dropbox.com/u/60576527/Nova%20Health%20Systems%20v.%20Oklahoma%20AG.TIF
State Sen. Jim Tracy, 56, of Shelbyville, plans formally to declare his candidacy for the 4th District Congressional seat now held by U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais today in Murfreesboro, reports Andy Sher. In a statement, Tracy, an insurance agency owner and eight-year legislative veteran, said, “It is with a heavy heart that I have decided to challenge the incumbent from my own party. For the good of the people of the 4th Congressional District, who hold our Tennessee values dear, a change in leadership is a must.”
Tracy said a “place like Washington, D.C., requires someone of integrity and character.”
That’s intended as a direct challenge to DesJarlais, who first was elected in 2010 and touts his anti-abortion rights stances.
During his 2012 campaign against Democrat Eric Stewart, DesJarlais was rocked by revelations that he slept with at least two patients in 2000, urged one of them who said she was pregnant by him to get an abortion and faced other issues.
Efforts to reach DesJarlais spokesman Robert Jameson on Tuesday were unsuccessful.
After state Rep. Joe Carr, R-Lacassas, announced last month that he had formed a committee to test the waters for a campaign against DesJarlais, Jameson said the congressman “is completely focused on the job he was elected to do by residents of the 4th District.”
— UPDATE: DesJarlais was asked about Tracy’s candidacy by Cara Kumari. His response as reported on her blog: A: “I think I probably speak for everybody that we’re all a little campaign weary. I’m ready to focus on the job I was elected to do and there will be plenty of time to talk campaigning in a year or so.”
Q: “How do you make amends to the voters who believe you lied to them?”
A: “I have people all over the district that have been calling and coming up to me and thanking me for the job I’m doing and wanting me to continue to represent them the way that I have. So the rhetoric we’re hearing in the news is not what I’m hearing from my constituents.”
Weston Wamp, who lives in Hamilton County in the 3rd Congressional District though within sight of Marion County in the 4th Congressional District, and that figures into the possibility of him challenging U.S. Rep. Scott Desjarlais, reports Chris Carroll. The geography isn’t lost on Wamp as DesJarlais attempts to overcome a scandal that demolished his image as an anti-abortion, family-values doctor. Four days after calling DesJarlais “kind of a creepy guy” on a Chattanooga television show, Wamp said he’s weighing a 4th District Republican primary challenge.
“It’s incredibly early,” said Wamp, 25, in a Wednesday interview. “If anything, this is on the backburner. But I won’t rule anything out. I live a lot closer to most of the 4th District than I do the 3rd District.”
The son of former Congressman Zach Wamp unsuccessfully challenged his father’s immediate successor, U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, in this year’s 3rd District Republican primary.
A public relations strategist at the Lamp Post Group in Chattanooga, Wamp joins a host of potential DesJarlais opponents.
Meanwhile, here’s the Tennessee Journal list of prospective DesJarlais challengers:
● State Sen. Jim Tracy (R-Shelbyville), whose base includes part of Rutherford County, the largest in the 4th District. Tracy finished a close third in the 2010 6th District primary before redistricting put him in the 4th.
● State Rep. Kevin Brooks (R-Cleveland), a public relations and conference manager at the Church of God headquarters in Cleveland. Although not all of Bradley County is in the district, the heavily Republican county produces the second largest vote total.
● State Rep. Joe Carr (R-Murfreesboro), who insists it’s way too early to ponder a race but acknowledges he is “thinking about thinking about it” later on.
● Forrest Shoaf, a retired Cracker Barrel executive who in 2002 finished a distant fifth in the open 7th District Republican primary, which was won by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Brentwood). Shoaf, a West Point graduate with a Harvard law degree, currently resides in Lebanon, which is not in the 4th District, but he is planning to move to Bedford County, whether he decides to pursue the congressional seat or not.
● Shane Reeves, a Rutherford County pharmacy company executive whose name often pops up in political speculation. He is a friend of both Tracy and Carr.
In 2010, DesJarlais defeated Franklin Republican Jack Bailey for the 4th District nomination. Then, riding both an anti-Obama wave and the coattails of Republican gubernatorial victor Haslam, he upset incumbent Democrat Lincoln Davis (D-Pall Mall).
Speculation is already afoot about potential challengers to U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais in 2014, though all are saying, more or less, that it’s too early to talk about it.
The Murfreesboro Daily News Journal has quotes from state Sen. Jim Tracy, Lou Ann Zelenik and state Rep. Joe Carr about the possibility of entering the Republican primary… and speculation about another Democratic run at the seat. “We are less than 18 months away from primary season, so it will be here before you know it,” said Gabriel Fancher, chairman of the Rutherford County Young Republicans and an executive committee member of the county’s GOP. “The thing about DesJarlais is you can’t knock him on his voting record, but he does have that past that haunts him. People hold their representative to a hire standard. As long as they do, his past will continue to haunt him.”
The Tennessean adds the name of Forrest Shoaf, a lawyer and retired business executive who ran unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination to the 7th Congressional District seat back in 2002 (losing to Marsha Blackburn). “We’ve worked a long time to win this (4th Congressional District) seat and I don’t want to lose it,” said retired Cracker Barrel executive Forrest Shoaf of Lebanon.
“I’m giving strong thought to running in the (2014) primary.”
If not Shoaf, it will be someone, several Washington political observers said. And none saw the Jasper Republican, just re-elected to a second term, making it to a third.
“It’s a fairly safe prediction that the congressman’s tenure will end in the GOP primary in 2014. His affairs could fill a whole season of a soap opera, and that’s not acceptable for the ‘family values’ party in the Bible Belt,” said University of Virginia political expert Larry Sabato.