Tenn. GOP leaders back DesJarlais challenger

Tennessee state House leaders are coalescing behind state Sen. Jim Tracy (R) in his primary bid against embattled Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R).

Speaker of the House Beth Harwell, House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada and House Speaker Pro Tempore Curtis Johnson have joined Tracy’s campaign leadership team, according to a release from his campaign.

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DesJarlais is one of the most vulnerable incumbents in Congress after it was revealed in 2012 that the anti-abortion congressman and former physician urged a mistress and his ex-wife to have abortions.

The revelations from his divorce records emerged just ahead of the 2012 election, but even with the damaging news, Democrats were unable to defeat DesJarlais for a second term in the heavily GOP district. However, many Republicans wouldn't be sad to see DesJarlais lose his primary, and he's gotten little help from his colleagues.

Tracy, who ran for Congress in 2010 but lost in the primary to now-Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.), has outraised DesJarlais as he’s continued to gain momentum for his challenge. DesJarlais had just $170,000 in the bank at the end of September, compared to Tracy’s $767,000.

“I am honored and humbled to have the support of Tennessee House leadership,” Tracy said in a statement. “I appreciate the confidence my colleagues have placed in my conservative principles and leadership ability.”

Tracy is one of three other Republicans challenging the incumbent in the Aug. 7 primary, but he’s the best known and best funded, especially after state Rep. Joe Carr dropped his 4th District bid to mount an underdog challenge to Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) in his primary.

The top state House leaders join other heavy-hitters in the state who are also backing Tracy, including former Gov. Winfield Dunn, Lt. Gov. and Speaker of the Senate Ron Ramsey, Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Bill Ketron and Senate Speaker Pro Tempore Bo Watson.

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