Several days after Tennessee voters cast their ballots in party primaries and local elections, the Republican nominee to represent the state’s 4th Congressional District in November is still up in the air.
The race between Jasper physician Scott Desjarlais, a two-term incumbent, and Shelbyville state Senator Jim Tracy is so close — less than 50 votes separate the challenger from the incumbent — that both candidates have declared themselves the winner, and have sought legal counsel.
Tracy, an insurance agent and two-and-a-half term state senator, announced his candidacy in January 2013 in the wake of the revelation in fall of 2012 that Desjarlais, the pro-life doctor and GOP nominee for the U.S. House seat, had in the past had sex with patients and later pressured one to get an abortion.
However, Desjarlais did well with rural voters, who seemed more inclined to consider his voting record than his troubled past when it came to casting their ballots, according to the Associated Press.
According to unofficial election totals from the Tennessee Secretary of State’s office, Desjarlais came in with 34,787 votes, and Tracy had 34,752 — a 35 vote difference.
Fourth Congressional District provisional ballot voters had until close-of-business Monday to make their way to their local election offices with a proper form of identification to ensure that their votes count, though it could be several days until the total vote tally is completed, according to the AP.
Only two provisional ballots were approved by Grundy County Election officials Monday night, one for each candidate, the Times Free Press and AP report.
Bill Green, the state executive committeeman for Tennessee’s 16th Senate District — which includes Coffee, Marion, Franklin, Grundy and Sequatchie Counties, told TNReport Monday that he had not been in touch with anybody else on the executive committee about what they’re going to do once the provisional ballots are counted.
Calls to both the Republican State Executive Committee’s National Committeeman John Ryder and National Committeewoman Peggy Lambert to discuss what to expect after the provisional ballots are certified and counted were not immediately returned Monday afternoon.
Because they are committed to neutrality in primaries, officers for the Tennessee Republican Party “cannot speculate” about the outcome of the 4th District race, said TNGOP Chairman Chris Devaney in e-mailed statement.
“According to state law, any Republican election contest would have to be submitted to the Tennessee Republican Party, acting as the State Republican Primary Board, within 5 days after election certification,” Devaney wrote. “If an election contest is received, the Primary Board would consider all arguments regarding a contest in a just and fair manner.”
Meanwhile, Democratic nominee Lenda Sherrell, who faced no opponent in the primary has been readying herself to face her GOP opponent in the general election, “whoever it is,” reports the Times Free Press.
Additionally, Desjarlais is a finalist in liberal comedian Bill Maher’s “Flip a District” campaign, in which the HBO talk show host will attempt to flip a district by using his show to place an incumbent member of Congress under a large degree of scrutiny.