DesJarlais claims victory as recount looms

Greg Nash

Embattled Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.) is declaring victory over state Sen. Jim Tracy despite a looming recount and razor-thin lead.

With all precincts reporting after Thursday's primary, the scandal-plagued incumbent held a 35 vote advantage over his challenger. 

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“I am truly honored that the folks of the Fourth Congressional District put their faith in my ability to continue to serve them effectively in Washington," DesJarlais said in a statement Friday afternoon. 

"My campaign made it clear from the beginning we would run on my independent, conservative record and that is precisely what we did. While my opponent engaged in desperate and disgusting personal attacks, at the end of the day voters cared more about the job I have done in Congress."

Tracy isn't conceding, though, and his campaign indicated early Friday morning they would wait for any outstanding provisional ballots, though that number could be slim, and a certification of the results. 

"There are ballots left to be counted in the Fourth District Republican primary. We eagerly await the final outcome once the counting is completed and verified," the Tracy campaign said in a statement. 

If DesJarlais’s victory does hold, it will be one of most unexpected victories of the cycle. 

In November 2012, revelations came to light that DesJarlais, a physician, had pushed his ex-wife to have two abortions and carried on multiple affairs with patients, one of whom he urged to terminate a pregnancy.

DesJarlais argued the mistakes from years ago were behind him and asked for forgiveness. 

The race was further turned on its head when DesJarlais announced last month he had been diagnosed with neck cancer. He began undergoing treatments immediately, and his time on the campaign trail was limited. 

After the incumbent’s diagnosis though, some Tracy supporters worried that the challenger’s negative attacks could backfire. Tracy’s final ads reminded voters that DesJarlais was fined by the state medical board for relationships with patients and said he “no longer has credibility. ”On the campaign trail, surrogates for Tracy made not-so-veiled references to “values,” “morals,” “trust” and “integrity.”

Tennessee's recount laws are far from clear. A provision specifies that recounts can be ordered in the event of a tie, an “indication of fraud if the number of votes affected would be sufficient to change the result of the election,” malfunction of a voting machine which could change the outcome,” or “any other instance the court or body with jurisdiction of a contested election finds that a recount is warranted” — a broad mandate.

But the next step appears to be to wait for the results to be certified, a process the Tennessee Secretary of State is trying to speed up. According to The Tennessean, those county meetings will happen over the next two weeks until Aug. 25. 

After that, candidates would have five days to file any challenges with the state Republican Party, which would be taken up by the newly-elected state GOP executive committee.