NASHVILLE — In their first paid outreach efforts to Republican primary voters in Tennessee's 4th Congressional District, GOP challenger Jim Tracy and U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais are talking a lot about "integrity" and "trust."
State Sen. Tracy, R-Shelbyville, went up with his first television ad on Tuesday, a 30-second spot on which he is spending nearly $22,000 in Chattanooga aimed at the sprawling congressional district's eastern half.
In the ad, former school teacher and coach Tracy tosses a baseball to his teenage son as an announcer describes him as "conservative" and the candidate himself talks about "integrity," seen as a jab at DesJarlais although the South Pittsburg physician's name is not mentioned.
"Growing up, my family didn't have a lot of money," Tracy says in the ad, running for a week on broadcast television and cable stations in the Chattanooga region. "But my dad, he gave me a good name. I protected my good name and handed it down. Integrity isn't just the main thing. It's the only thing."
Tracy goes on to add that "too many congressmen are short on integrity and that's how our nation got in this mess. To stop the Obama agenda, we as Republicans have got to clean up our own house first and start fresh."
DesJarlais' political career took a hit in his 2012 campaign and afterward with revelations that he pressured a patient, with whom he had had an affair, to seek an abortion. Subsequent documents from his 2001 divorce showed that DesJarlais earlier went along with his wife's decision to seek two abortions.
DesJarlais has previously said he since has remarried, happily, and has found God. He says his congressional votes match constituents' wishes.
In a statement, DesJarlais struck back at the ad, in which an announcer describes his challenger as "conservative Jim Tracy."
"There is nothing conservative about voting for Common Core, advocating for Barack Obama's stimulus package and supporting higher gas taxes," DesJarlais said.
The congressman, whose fundraising lags behind Tracy's, plans to send his first direct-mail piece to voters this week.
"Both candidates say they are 'conservative' but who can you really trust?" says the mailer, which asks to compare the candidates.
The DesJarlais campaign says the two-term congressman "listens to the people" and goes on to ding Tracy, stating he "Listens to the Establishment."
Among other things, it also says Tracy as a state senator voted yes "to bring Common Core to Tennessee, a federal takeover of education" and "supported and pursued stimulus funds from President Obama."
The GOP primary is Aug. 7.
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, ...