ABOUT THE DISTRICT
Tennessee's 4th Congressional District, which includes about 721,000 residents, meanders through all or parts of 16 counties in middle to southeast Tennessee. The district includes all of Bedford, Bledsoe, Franklin, Grundy, Lincoln, Marion, Marshall, Meigs, Moore, Rhea, Rutherford, Sequatchie, Van Buren, and Warren counties, as well as parts of Bradley and Maury counties.
• Median household income: $43,563
• Percent of population with a high school diploma or higher: 85
• Percent of population with a bachelor's degree or higher: 20
• Number of civilian veterans: 55,035
Chances are, if state Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyille, is elected in November as Tennessee's 4th District congressman, his conservative ranking will be nearly as high in 2016 as that of the incumbent he is facing in the Aug. 7 Republican Party primary.
Scott DesJarlais, the South Pittsburg physician who is seeking a third term in Congress, is the fourth most conservative member of the U.S. House of Representatives, according to National Journal Magazine.
In the belief Tracy will follow that conservative path and with the knowledge the incumbent is likely too damaged to win re-election, we endorse Tracy -- of the seven seeking the GOP nomination -- in next week's primary.
The winner will face unopposed Democrat Lenda Sherrell of Monteagle in November.
DesJarlais, who has been listed as one of the 10 "most vulnerable" House incumbents in the 2014 election cycle, says he is a happily married husband and proud father of three, and we take him at his word on that.
He also says "all life should be cherished and protected" and has a 100 percent rating by the National Right to Life Committee, but Times Free Press archives show he went along with his now-ex-wife's decision to seek two abortions and later pressured a patient, with whom he had an affair, to seek an abortion.
We also believe he's now serious about protecting "all life" but don't believe enough voters in the 4th District will be able to separate the past from the present.
Tracy has a 100 percent pro-life voting record; displayed his tax-cutting bonafides on votes to eliminate the state's inheritance tax and cut the state's sales tax on groceries; sponsored and passed legislation which requires Tennessee businesses to check to make sure those they hire are legally allowed to work in the United States; and sponsored and passed legislation which keeps convicted drug felons from receiving Families First food stamp benefits.
He has been dinged in a campaign ad by DesJarlais, though, on a vote supporting Race to the Top federal funds (which included plans for pursuing Common Core education standards); on voicing support for President Obama's education agenda; and on sponsoring a bill that would create automatic gas tax increases.
Tracy is no different from many Republican legislators in Tennessee in supporting the Race to the Top funds (the Race to the Top Act of 2010 passed 29-3 in the Senate and 83-10 in the House), but he, like many of those same legislators, do not like the Common Core standards the funds spawned.
DesJarlais' use of Tracy's support for Obama's education agenda is quite far-fetched. Tracy's very general comments on "encourag[ing] and teach[ing] young people to be productive citizens" were made in the glow of the rhetoric of the inauguration of the nation's first black president in 2009 and hardly constitute supporting the president's agenda five years later.
Further, the challenger's gas tax bill would not have raised taxes at the outset but would have linked state gas taxes to the consumer price index and triggered future small increases. Any additional revenue, though, would have been used to help build state roads, which are financed by fuel taxes. Ultimately, the bill did not pass the House.
Tracy's proposal is similar to one Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., talked about for the country earlier this summer to help finance repairs to the nation's roads, which have been paid for in the last few years by a series of patched-together measures that ultimately just increased the nation's debt.
On other issues, from Obamacare to immigration to the right to bear arms to traditional marriage, the challenger is going to vary little if any from the incumbent.
It's sad that DesJarlais' past wasn't vetted when he initially ran in 2010, and though he's a public figure, he has a right to a certain measure of privacy. But the hypocrisy on the abortion issue is a stiff wall to overcome.
Tracy offers a similar voting pattern without the regrettable baggage the incumbent has in an otherwise honorably served two terms. We endorse his selection in the primary.