Almanac A members-only database of searchable profiles compiled and adapted from the Almanac of American Politics

Biography

Elected: 2010, 3rd term.

Born: February 21, 1964, Des Moines, IA

Home: Jasper

Education: U. of SD, B.S. 1987, M.D. 1991.

Professional Career: Practicing physician, 1993-2010.

Ethnicity: White/Caucasian

Religion: Episcopalian

Family: Married (Amy) , 3 children

Republican Scott DesJarlais was elected in 2010 following one of the year’s most negative campaigns. He then won reelection by overcoming explosive accusations about his personal life, and subsequently defeated an August 2014 primary challenger to defy virtually all earlier conventional wisdom.

DesJarlais (DAY-zher-lay) grew up in Sturgis, S.D. His father was a barber, and his mother was a registered nurse at a veterans’ hospital. He earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and psychology from the University of South Dakota in 1987. After receiving his medical degree from the school in 1991, DesJarlais moved to Jasper, where he practiced medicine.

The 2010 House race was DesJarlais’ first bid for elected office, and he said it was motivated by his patients’ concerns about the foundering economy and their fears about losing their jobs. He challenged Rep. Lincoln Davis, who had been the most conservative Democrat in the Tennessee delegation and had earned the endorsements of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Rifle Association, and National Right to Life. DesJarlais billed himself as a “doctor, not a politician.” Davis made headlines with accusations made by DesJarlais’ first wife, Susan, who claimed that he physically intimidated her during their 2000 divorce and threatened to commit suicide.

DesJarlais called the charges “completely false,” and the ad exposed Davis to accusations of mudslinging. Davis also pointed out his votes against the Democrats’ health care overhaul and their cap-and-trade bill to limit greenhouse gas emissions, both unpopular in the district. But even his limited cooperation with President Barack Obama in voting for the $787 billion economic stimulus bill cost him votes. DesJarlais won 57% to 39% for Davis, with minor candidates splitting the rest.

In the House, DesJarlais has been a devout fiscal conservative, and he tied with several others in the 112th Congress (2011-12) as the House’s most conservative member on social issues, according to National Journal’s annual rankings. In 2013, he again was tied for most-conservative on social as well as foreign policy issues and overall was the chamber's fourth most-conservative member. When he suggested cutting the Forest Service’s outreach programs for children, environmental groups protested that he was putting Smokey Bear in jeopardy. He joined fellow Tennessee freshman Republican Charles Fleischmann in opposing an Energy Department plan to consolidate management of Oak Ridge’s Y-12 weapons plant with the one at Texas’ Pantex facility. He drew attention for spending more on constituent mailings than almost every other House member in 2011, though he defended the mailings as essential to outreach.

But scandal overshadowed DesJarlais’ legislative work. The Huffington Post reported in October 2012 that, according to a transcript of a phone recording made sometime before his divorce, DesJarlais urged his pregnant mistress—who was one of his medical patients—to get an abortion. He issued a statement accusing opponents of “the same gutter politics” as his earlier race, but he later said in a letter to supporters that he encouraged the abortion because he was trying to get her to admit she wasn’t pregnant. Conservatives abandoned him in droves, and national Democrats raced in to assist challenger Eric Stewart, who had been seen as a long shot. Another former patient came forward to tell of a sexual relationship with DesJarlais, which he called “not a credible story.”

The conservative district’s voters gave DesJarlais the benefit of the doubt, as he beat Stewart 56%-44%, He won Murfreesboro-based Rutherford County—the district’s largest—53%-47%, and easily took almost all other counties. After the election, the state Democratic Party released court transcripts showing that DesJarlais and his ex-wife mutually agreed that she would have two abortions, and that he admitted having sex with at least two patients, three coworkers, and a drug representative. DesJarlais later acknowledged having used “very poor judgment” but dismissed suggestions that he resign or not run again. In 2013, the Tenneesee Board of Medical Examiners fined him $500 and reprimanded him for having sex with multiple patients.

By January 2013, he had his first 2014 primary challenger: state Sen. Jim Tracy, who began peeling off DesJarlais’ donors. Tracy told supporters, “I’m a conservative in word and deed. I’m 100 percent pro-life.” Tracy outraised DesJarlais and collected the backing of virtually everyone in the state's GOP establishment, and he campaigned on bringing "integrity" to the office.

DesJarlais, meanwhile, countered that his personal life was old news, noting that he had been married for 12 years to his second wife. "I know God’s forgiven me," he told one conservative talk-radio host. "I simply ask my fellow Christians and constituents to [do] the same for me." That message resonated with some voters; Vanderbilt political scientist John Geer told The Washington Post that "conservative evangelicals believe in forgiveness." Anti-abortion interest groups largely steered clear of the race, perhaps believing that their money could be better spent elsewhere.

Primary election totals showed DesJarlais with a 38-vote lead, and he declared victory. State officials said that depending on Tracy's response, the recount process could last into September. On Aug. 25, Tracy conceded, saying further challenges "would not be the right thing for the Republican Party and the conservative cause in Tennessee.” However, Tracy continued to fault the handling of the election. “There were votes by people who were not on the rolls and should have cast provisional ballots, but voted on machines so there was no way to determine whether those were legal votes,” he said.

DesJarlais easily beat Democrat Lenda Sherrell in November. During the race, he underwent treatment for early-stage cancer in his neck.

Office Contact Information

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 225-6831

(202) 226-5172

CHOB- Cannon House Office Building Room 413
Washington, DC 20515-4204

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 225-6831

(202) 226-5172

CHOB- Cannon House Office Building Room 413
Washington, DC 20515-4204

DISTRICT OFFICE

(931) 381-9920

(931) 381-9945

711 North Garden Street
Columbia, TN 38401-3223

DISTRICT OFFICE

(931) 381-9920

(931) 381-9945

711 North Garden Street
Columbia, TN 38401-3223

DISTRICT OFFICE

(931) 962-3180

(931) 962-3435

Federal Building Suite 311
Winchester, TN 37398-1712

DISTRICT OFFICE

(931) 962-3180

(931) 962-3435

Federal Building Suite 311
Winchester, TN 37398-1712

DISTRICT OFFICE

(423) 472-7500

(423) 472-7800

301 Keith Street Suite 212
Cleveland, TN 37311-5842

DISTRICT OFFICE

(423) 472-7500

(423) 472-7800

301 Keith Street Suite 212
Cleveland, TN 37311-5842

DISTRICT OFFICE

(615) 896-1986

(615) 896-8218

305 West Main Street
Murfreesboro, TN 37130-3547

DISTRICT OFFICE

(615) 896-1986

(615) 896-8218

305 West Main Street
Murfreesboro, TN 37130-3547

CAMPAIGN OFFICE

639 Sweetens Cove Road
South Pittsburg, TN 37380-6414

CAMPAIGN OFFICE

639 Sweetens Cove Road
South Pittsburg, TN 37380-6414

Staff

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Legislative Correspondent

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Legislative Correspondent

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Legislative Correspondent

Election Results

2012 GENERAL
Scott DesJarlais
Votes: 128,568
Percent: 55.76%
Eric Stewart
Votes: 102,022
Percent: 44.24%
2012 PRIMARY
Scott DesJarlais
Votes: 36,088
Percent: 76.76%
Shannon Kelley
Votes: 10,927
Percent: 23.24%
2010 GENERAL
Scott DesJarlais
Votes: 103,969
Percent: 57.07%
Lincoln Davis
Votes: 70,254
Percent: 38.56%
2010 PRIMARY
Scott DesJarlais
Votes: 27,812
Percent: 37.15%
Jack Bailey
Votes: 20,420
Percent: 27.27%
Kent Greenough
Votes: 11,413
Percent: 15.24%
Ronald Harwell
Votes: 9,237
Percent: 12.34%
Donald Strong
Votes: 5,992
Percent: 8.0%
Prior Winning Percentages
2010 (57%)

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