VOL. 36 | NO. 44 | Friday, November 02, 2012
DesJarlais only Tenn. congressman with tough race
NASHVILLE (AP) — Two years after upsetting the incumbent Democrat, U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais is the only Tennessee member of Congress facing a serious challenge in Tuesday's general election.
Democrats were unable to field credible candidates against two other freshmen Republicans who won House seats previously held by Democrats. And a concentrated Democratic effort against DesJarlais isn't guaranteed to provide a boost to the party in a state that has turned decidedly Republican - despite revelations that the congressman, who opposes abortion rights, years ago urged his mistress to get an abortion.
State Sen. Eric Stewart, the Democratic nominee in the 4th District race, hopes that conservative voters who back Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney are upset enough by the revelations about DesJarlais' personal life to split their tickets and vote for him.
"I don't think Stewart had a chance before that popped, but I don't thi nk he has much chance now," said early voter Jim Rust, a 67-year-old college psychology professor from Rutherford County who voted for the Democrat last week. "Small, but he's got a chance. It's better than he had before."
DesJarlais has blamed "a disgruntled, defeated ex-congressman, a vindictive ex-wife, and a desperate Democratic candidate" for dredging up details from his past. The Democratic Party fell short Monday in an effort to make public before Election Day some trial transcripts from DesJarlais' messy 2001 divorce but the documents could come out Tuesday.
If new details from the divorce do emerge before the polls close, the impact is uncertain because more than 120,000 ballots were cast during early voting in the district, which stretches from Rutherford County, across southern Middle Tennessee to Bradley County in East Tennessee.
Shelby County election administrator Richard Holden said that there had been no significant problems at the polls, sav e for normal issues such as people showing up with an absentee ballot and wanting to vote in person.
In the Memphis suburb of Collierville, financial adviser Kevin Baltier, 44, said he chose the Mitt Romney-Paul Ryan presidential ticket because their tax plan and economic strategy would spur investment in the United States and help the overall economy. He praised Ryan's knowledge of budget issues and ability to work with fellow members of Congress.
"Romney's fiscal policies in particular should line up better with the future of our country going in the right direction," said Baltier, a Republican.
The married father of two boys also said President Barack Obama's campaign has failed to reach him.
"This class envy that the president has created to get re-elected, I don't know whether he believes it or not, but he certainly has used it as a populist message," Baltier said.
In Knoxville, Micki Fox said she has known who she was voting for four years.
"Barack Obama in 2008, and I have never wavered," said Fox, administrator of the University of Tennessee College of Law.
Fox said poor economic conditions have affected her family, but said she doesn't believe that was Obama's fault.
"I think he's done the best he can with what he inherited," Fox said.
In Nashville, Josephine Wright wore her "I Voted" sticker Tuesday at the Napier Community Center.
"I always wear it so the kids will know how important it is to vote on election day," said Wright, who is African-American. "Once upon a time we, as a people, could not cast a vote."
Republican U.S. Sen. Bob Corker is expected to cruise to a second six-year term on Tuesday, a far cry from the less than 3-percentage point win over Democrat Harold Ford in 2006. This time Corker faces part-time floor installer Mark Clayton, whom the Democratic Party disavowed soon after the primary because of his anti-gay platform and dubious Democratic credentials .
Clayton won 48,000 votes in a seven-way Democratic primary in August, and fended off a federal lawsuit brought by another Democratic candidate who sought to remove Clayton from the November ballot. He did not raise enough money to trigger federal campaign finance reporting requirements, while Corker has spent $4.7 million.
The state's eight congressional incumbents other than DesJarlais have had easy campaigns.
Democratic Rep. Steve Cohen of Memphis is predicting a landslide victory despite Republican opponent George Flinn spending heavily in that race. The state's other Democratic congressman, Jim Cooper of Nashville, faces political unknown Brad Staats.
Freshman Rep. Diane Black of Gallatin faces no opposition after trouncing Lou Ann Zelenik in the Republican primary in August. Among the remaining Republicans, Rep. Phil Roe of Johnson City faces Democrat Alan Woodruff of Gray; Rep. Jimmy Duncan faces Troy Goodale, both of Knoxville; Rep. Chuck Flei schmann of Chattanooga is opposed by Mary Headrick of Maynardville; Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Brentwood faces Credo Amouzouvik of Clarksville; and Stephen Fincher of Halls is challenged by Timothy Dixon of Germantown.