published Friday, May 3rd, 2013

Joe Carr enters GOP primary against Scott DesJarlais

Joe Carr
Joe Carr
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Embattled U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais now has two Republican challengers seeking to oust him in next year's GOP primary.

The latest, state Rep. Joe Carr, announced his candidacy Thursday. The 55-year-old Lascassas, Tenn., business consultant said he will "stand firm" for the "first principles of our Founding Fathers" and pledged to "lead with integrity and advance the conservative movement in Washington."

State Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville, announced in January he was running against DesJarlais. Carr in December formed an exploratory committee to test the waters for a bid.

Carr said he opposes the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, and current immigration reform efforts, saying before embarking on anything "maybe, maybe it would be appropriate to enforce the law."

And the lawmaker charged that Congress is "sitting idly by" while the Obama administration "threatens civil liberties" on the Second Amendment and other rights.

Both Carr and Tracy have been critical of DesJarlais, a Jasper physician. DesJarlais describes himself as "pro-life" but is fending off abortion-related revelations from his personal life.

During his 2012 campaign, a transcript of a recorded conversation surfaced revealing DesJarlais encouraged a patient with whom he had an affair to seek an abortion in 2000. The later release of a court transcript from his 2001 divorce showed the physician earlier had supported his then-wife's decision to get two abortions.

Carr's exploratory committee raised about $205,000 in the first quarter of the year. Meanwhile, Tracy's campaign reported he had raised more than $436,000 in the first quarter, while DesJarlais raised $105,000.

Ben Cunningham, who heads the Nashville Tea Party and Tennessee Tax Revolt, was among some 30 people attending Carr's event.

He called Carr "an independent fighter."

"That's what I like about him, and that's the spirit he's shown in the General Assembly," he said. "And that's what we need in D.C."

Carr acknowledged the campaign will be difficult.

"Because who we're standing against ... is some of our Republican colleagues," he said. "We're standing against, in some respects, the establishment."

Having two challengers to DesJarlais could help the incumbent, he said.

Tracy's fundraising and lengthy list of supporters won't deter him, Carr said.

"I think what the voters are looking for is more than the same good-old-boy politics that we've become accustomed to," Carr said.

Contact staff writer Andy Sher at or 615-255-0550 or

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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