Tuesday, August 26, 2014

DesJarlais Won His Primary By 38 Votes-- But That Hasn't Gotten The DCCC's Attention


Monday morning, Tennessee state Senator Jim Tracy conceded the August 7 Republican primary that had left Scott DesJarlais ahead by by 38 votes; Tracy won't be asking for a recount. So DesJarlais, a doctor whose reputation has been harmed because of a series of scandals involving women patients who he drugged up and had sexual affairs with-- even forcing one to have an abortion (which as a far right Republican zombie he loudly opposes… at least for other women. So the Republicans couldn't quite knock off the wounded and bleeding DesJarlais. Will a Democrat take him to pieces? Steve Israel, chairman of the DCCC, who spends his time collecting money from lobbyists and Big Business special interests while pretending that he's trying to win back the House, has nothing to say about TN-04. In his world that central Tennessee district that stretched from the Nashville suburbs (Rutherford County-- including Smyrna and Murfreesboro-- where 40% of the voters reside) all the way south and east, past Shelbyville and Winchester to the suburbs of Chatanooga.

TN-04 was Democratic territory until the Great Blue Dog Apocalypse saw the defeat of reactionary Democrat Lincoln Davis, first elected in 2002. Davis, an NRA supporter who is vehemently anti-Choice and virulently anti-gay. During the campaign, he bragged out voting with the Republicans against the Affordable Care Act and against the Democrats' energy legislation. He had one of the worst voting records of any Democrat in Congress. So Democratic voters didn't show up at the polls-- and he suffered a humiliating defeat, 57.1% to 38.6%-- after outspending DesJarlais $1,411,746 to $923,280.

Two years later, the DCCC recruited another reactionary, Eric Stewart, a crooked state senator who was later convicted on a theft charge. He was only able to raise $710,407 against DesJarlais' $1,260,459 and DesJarlais beat him 128,500 (56%) to 101,944 (44%), not a prohibitive margin. Apparently it never occurred to Steve Israel to see what would happen if they ran a Democrat with progressive values. Earlier today he sent out a fundraising letter for one of his ghastly conservative candidates: "As Chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, my job description is (sorta) simple: Elect Democrats-- ESPECIALLY in the toughest races out there." But, not TN-04.

Even a weak candidate like Stewart was able to win 2 of the district's 16 counties, Van Buren and Warren and hold DesJarlais to a 53-47% margin in mammoth Rutherford. But the DCCC and the Beltway conventional wisdom media types wrote the district off entirely, even as Israel started spending money in much redder, much less likely districts.

This cycle Jim Tracy raised $1,468,783 against DesJarlais, who only managed to bring in $447,015. DesJarlais was forced to spend almost all of it on his 38-vote win. WIth the DCCC ignoring the district and discouraging donors to help Democrat Lenda Sherell, she still managed to out-raise DesJarlais with $470,786. The DCCC and the braying asses in the trade press who belch out their talking points say there is no chance for a Democratic victory in November. "In the current district and political environment, there's not a Democrat alive who could win this race, no matter the GOP nominee. It's not so much redistricting as the visceral dislike of President (Barack) Obama and the national Democratic Party that has gripped rural Tennessee in the last decade."
But Sherrell, 67, says she's run the numbers and can see a path to victory. She said data show that one-third of the voters in the 16-county district vote based on the candidate more than the political party, and 54 percent of the voters are women.

By persuading independent voters, turning out the Democratic base and expanding the electorate through voter registration, Sherrell believes she can win. And while she said she doesn't plan to remind voters of DesJarlais' specific indiscretions-- issues that don't seem to have made a difference in the GOP primary-- she does plan to tell a story about his values-- and hers.

"Frankly, Scott DesJarlais and I are vastly different," she said. "This district deserves someone who is of good moral character, someone who takes an oath and upholds it, someone who you can trust to respect their clients, their colleagues, their co-workers. When I was an auditor and a controller, I was entrusted with multimillion-dollar budgets. For me, it was a sacred trust. This is how I will represent the district. So that's the difference."

Nothing controversial there-- until you examine it through the prism of DesJarlais' past.

A 2001 divorce filing, most of which was released after the 2012 election, showed DesJarlais, a physician who has publicly opposed abortion, urged his former wife to end two pregnancies. He also had affairs with patients and encouraged at least one of them to have an abortion.

Sherrell says she doesn't need to spell out those details because "everybody knows that" by now. But other parties may not show the same restraint. She said her campaign has been in regular contact with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which is "extremely supportive," though it hasn't "sent us a check" yet.

…"They were arguing (during the primary campaign) about who was more conservative and who opposed Common Core first," she said. "That's not germane to how voters make decisions."

At a "listening tour" stop Monday in South Pittsburg, where DesJarlais lives, Sherrell talked to a small but appreciative crowd in terms that wouldn't have been out of place in a speech by a Kennedy in the 1960s: Neighbors helping neighbors. Community members looking out for one another.

"When we see a need in our communities, we don't sit back and complain," she said to the leaders of EYES (Educating Youth Ensures Success), an after-school program at a low-slung building in a park where dope dealers used to reign. "We step up."

That kind of appeal to community good will, to brothers helping brothers, could propel Sherrell to victory, supporters say. Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke, a Democrat who represented South Pittsburg and Marion County for five years in the Tennessee Senate, came to the event to see old friends and endorse Sherrell, who volunteered on both of Obama's presidential campaigns.

Berke said Sherrell represents the small-town, neighborly qualities the area is all about.

"We want someone in Congress who's going to fight for those values," he said. "The best of what I see in Marion County is also what Lenda has to offer."
DCCC… crickets. And Nancy Pelosi has still not fired Steve Israel.

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At 6:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How much is the RNC paying Steve Israel? Or do they have photos?


At 6:56 AM, Blogger Procopius said...

Maybe it's because of the blogs and sites I choose to read, but every time I see mention of Steve Israel it's about how he's sabotaging another center-right or center Democrat. Evidently he and Rahm Emanuel believe they get more money from the Blue Dogs in return for less effort. I know the neoliberal mind-set is that the Democrats have to be more business-friendly, but that's what they tried back in the 1920s and the Republicans wiped the floor with them. As FDR put it, "Why should they buy Democrats who are friendly to business when they can get the genuine article from the Republican party?" Are Steve and Rahm disciples of Jacob Raskof?


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