NASHVILLE — While Republican U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais may have persevered through a series of damaging revelations to win a second term in Congress, he all but exhausted his campaign account.
DesJarlais, a Jasper physician who had sexual relationships with patients and once urged one of them to seek an abortion, spent $1.25 million on his campaign to defeat Democratic challenger Eric Stewart, and was left with just $15,660 on hand when the dust settled.
DesJarlais has been left largely isolated in Congress following his victory. For example, he was the lone Republican member of Tennessee’s congressional delegation to be left off Lamar Alexander’s bid for a third term in the U.S. Senate.
But DesJarlais has rebuffed calls for his resignation or that he abandon intentions to run for another term representing the 4th Congressional District. That hasn’t stopped several Republicans from expressing interest in running for the seat, and DesJarlais’ depleted campaign coffers will do little to dissuade them from mounting a bid.
DesJarlais spent $439,639 in the final reporting period, with about $330,000 going toward TV advertising and $61,000 to direct mail.
During his 2010 and 2012 campaigns, DesJarlais tried to cast doubt on reports of violent behavior and multiple affairs before his divorce was finalized in 2001. But court transcripts released the week after the election showed he admitted to eight affairs, encouraged a lover to get an abortion and used a gun to intimidate his ex-wife during an argument.
The sworn testimony also revealed for the first time that the congressman had agreed when his ex-wife had two abortions. DesJarlais publicly opposes abortion rights.
The Tennessee Department of Health has begun an investigation into a complaint filed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington that DesJarlais should be disciplined for conducting an inappropriate sexual relationship with a patient. The watchdog group has also filed an ethics complaint in the U.S. House.
Among the other freshman Republicans who won second terms, Rep. Diane Black of Gallatin was left with $336,203 on hand after spending $3.2 million in the cycle, including $1 million in loans repaid to herself from her 2010 bid. Chattanooga Rep. Chuck Fleischmann had about $51,000 on hand, while Rep. Steven Fincher of Halls had $1.5 million.