Sometimes the life of a politician is best described as “up the creek without a paddle.” That tends to ring particularly true during election campaigns in which the incumbent is losing. Badly.
U.S. Congressman Scott DesJarlais, a Republican representing Tennessee, is currently running for reelection. However, his personal image has taken a major hit after some seriously hypocritical actions came to light.
A doctor who ran and won with the support of the Tea Party back in 2010, DesJarlais has since faced a public relations disaster regarding his 2001 divorce. In particular, although DesJarlais has often championed more restrictions on abortion, he himself testified that he encouraged his first wife to have two abortions prior to their marriage. To add insult to injury, he did the same with a patient with whom he had a sexual relationship, even asking her to travel across state lines and down to Georgia for an abortion. (Eventually a medical ethics complaint was filed against DesJarlais by a DC group. After the state’s medical board investigated, he received only a $500 fine over the patient relationship.)
As for his standing with the public, DesJarlais idid manage to overcome negative publicity last year and defeated his opponent, Democrat Eric Stewart, in the general election by 12 points. He asked his constituents to judge him on his relationship with his wife today, rather than his ex-wife and love-affair patient from the last decade. However, since then, two state lawmakers, State Sen. Jim Tracy of Shelbyville and State Rep. Joe Carr of Lascassas, have challenged DesJarlais in the 2014 GOP primary.
While it's still early, DesJarlais left the gate stumbling. This week, The National Journal, a nonpartisan Washington publication, released a list of the top 10 lawmakers “who could lose a primary next year,” and DesJarlais won the number-one spot.
The other indicator of a candidate's standing is their fundraising capability, in which DesJarlais’ competition has already left him in the dust.This is a big deal in a congressional district that reaches into three different television markets, and where money to run advertisements is completely necessary. DesJarlais nonetheless still fights on, stating that he has yet to make an official fundraising push .