published Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

NASHVILLE -- In Tennessee's 4th Congressional District bid, Republican U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, of Jasper, faces a GOP primary challenger who's spent nothing, but the Jasper physician says he's taking nothing for granted in Thursday's vote.

"We're working hard, and hopefully hard work will pay off," said DesJarlais, a physician first elected in 2010 when he upended incumbent Democrat Lincoln Davis. "I take everybody seriously. Just like a football game, you don't let your guard down."

Efforts to reach Republican Shannon Kelley, an airline pilot from Murfreesboro, were unsuccessful. The winner of the GOP primary faces state Sen. Eric Stewart, D-Winchester, in the November general election.

The 4th District underwent major surgery during GOP-controlled redistricting earlier this year, going from 24 to 16 counties. A good portion of Republican Bradley County was added as was Rhea and other counties.

Among counties added was Rutherford County (Murfreesboro) just outside Nashville. State Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, expressed interest in running for the congressional seat, and Republicans believed the district was reshaped in part for a Ketron challenge of DesJarlais. But a Ketron bid never materialized.

DesJarlais has been traveling the district ever since, hitting places like Cleveland and Murfreesboro.

"We're getting more known," DesJarlais said.

Last month, DesJarlais wrangled a field hearing in Murfreesboro of the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. DesJarlais, a member of the committee, and other Republicans lambasted what they called excessive federal regulations.

He touts his votes for a balanced budget amendment, the repeal of federal Affordable Health Care Act -- "Obamacare," he calls it -- and pro-energy bills.

On his website, Kelley attributes the country's problems to a "lack of knowledge" of the nation's "founding principles and our Constitution" and a "progressive agenda" that has "stripped Christian principles from the public square."

The congressman is on television with a $36,155 ad buy, his pre-primary disclosure shows. The ad, called "Trust and Faith," aims in part at introducing him to new voters and giving his take on his two years in Congress.

A voiceover on the 30-second spot says that as a doctor DesJarlais "earned his patients' trust. In Congress, Scott has kept the faith of hard-working Tennesseans."

The ad says DesJarlais voted to repeal Obama's health care law "because it put bureaucrats between you and your doctor. And Scott DesJarlais fought to cut the government's job-crushing debt to strengthen the economy and create jobs."

Stewart, the presumed Democratic nominee, struck back with a spoof on his website in which the campaign attacked specific budgets that DesJarlais supported.

"He's going to run his race," DesJarlais said. "We'll run ours. I think we have a good record to stand on."

Contact staff writer Andy Sher at 615-255-0550 or asher@timesfreepress.com.

about Andy Sher...

Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...

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