NASHVILLE — State House Assistant Majority Leader Kevin Brooks, R-Cleveland, said Tuesday he is eyeing a possible bid against embattled U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., in the 2014 GOP primary.
Brooks, an ordained Church of God minister, said he has “received a number of calls of support and had many conversations encouraging me to run for Congress in the 4th Congressional District.
“While I am firmly committed to serving my constituents in the 24th District, I wanted to publicly say that I am exploring what a solutions-based campaign for Congress would look like and how I can best serve the great State of Tennessee,” Brooks noted in his statement.
The legislator, who is public relations and conference coordinator for the Cleveland-based Church of God, added, “I plan to spend the next few weeks praying about the path forward with my family and talking with friends, neighbors and fellow Tennesseans about the future.”
Meanwhile, more problems for the 48-year-old congressman, who touts his anti-abortion stances, surfaced on Tuesday as Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a second complaint against DesJarlais, a Jasper physician, this time with the Office of Congressional Ethics.
CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan alleged that DesJarlais lied to the public this year, thus violating House rules, when confronted about past “inappropriate” sexual relationships with at least two patients 12 years ago.
The group last month filed a complaint against DesJarlais with the state Medical Board over related matters.
“Apparently, Rep. DesJarlais suffered a convenient memory block until a transcript from his divorce refreshed his recollection after he was recollected,” Sloan said in a statement on the latest filing.
The independent Office of Congressional Ethics investigates complaints against congressmen and, it says on its website, refers matters to the House Committee on Ethics “when appropriate.”
DesJarlais spokesman Robert Jamison shot back at Sloan in an email that “this [new complaint] is clearly nothing more than a shallow publicity stunt by a far-left organization owned by George Soros and used to further his liberal agenda.”
Conservative groups have said that Soros, a liberal billionaire, has provided funding for CREW in the past through the Open Society Institute he founded.
In one of the cases now dogging the tea party-backed congressman, a transcript surfaced during the freshman lawmaker’s reelection campaign in which DesJarlais, who now touts his opposition to abortion, urged a woman who said she was pregnant by him to undergo the procedure.
He told the Times Free Press last month that he knew the 24-year-old was not pregnant and there was no abortion. He also said he didn’t record the conversation.
He later denounced a subsequent Times Free Press article in which a second patient said she too had had sex with DesJarlais and he provided her with prescription drugs.
But a transcript of his messy 2001 divorce, released after the election, shows the first woman testified under oath that she had been pregnant. She refused to offer more details when attorneys asked her about the outcome of her pregnancy, saying, “I really don’t care to answer that. I mean, I don’t have a child by Dr. DesJarlais and that’s a personal thing.”
DesJarlais, meanwhile, acknowledged under oath that he and his then wife recorded the conversation during a reconciliation attempt during their years-long divorce. He also acknowledged having had sex with a second patient as well.
During his campaign, DesJarlais issued a statement to supporters saying he underwent a “very long and very difficult divorce” but noted “through grace and redemption, God has truly given me a second chance” and emphasized his “strong pro-life record” in Congress and “fighting for values important to Tennesseans. I hope you will judge me on these facts because that is who I am.”
After the court transcript’s release, he told the Knoxville News Sentinel last week that “I am human. I don’t think I ever put myself out there to be somebody that was perfect. I put myself out there as somebody who wanted to serve the public.”
He added, “I will serve as long as the people want me to serve.”
Meanwhile, a number of Tennessee Republicans have abandoned the congressman, among them Gov. Bill Haslam who said last week DesJarlais needs to examine whether he can still effectively serve.
Besides Brooks, three Republicans, including two fellow state legislators, have publicly said they are considering challenging DesJarlais in the 2014 Republican primary.
Contact staff writer Andy Sher at email@example.com or 615-255-0550.
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, ...