Chattanooga Times Free Press: With nearly $750,000 in campaign warchest, challenger Starrett says ready for DesJarlais in 2016 GOP primary

Republican Grant Starrett says he has raised nearly three quarters of a million dollars for his 4th Congressional District challenge to incumbent U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais in next year's GOP primary.

Starrett's first filing with Federal Election Commission, which is due on July 15, will report raising some $721,000 between April 1 and June 30.

"Our grassroots campaign has received tremendous support in our effort to bring conservative principles from Tennessee to Washington, D.C.," the Murfreesboro attorney said in a statement. Starrett, vice president and special counsel for the Lion Real Estate Group, describes himself as a "constitutional conservative" and lifelong conservative activist.

Starrett said he has visited every county in the district and attended dozens of meetings since he announced his campaign in April.

"We are well on our way to a victory in August of 2016. We will continue to use our resources to campaign hard in every county, bringing our constitutional conservative message to the voters in all 16 counties from Maury to Bradley."

DesJarlais, a South Pittsburg physician first elected in 2010 election, hasn't yet released his second-quarter fundraising. The congressman was easily outspent in the 2014 primary by Jim Tracy, a state senator.

Tracy hammered the congressman, a self-described supporter of "family values," over revelations from DesJarlais' 2001 divorce: that the physician dated a patient and a former patient, pressured the latter to get an abortion and went along with his first wife's two abortions.

DesJarlais eked out a razor-thin 38-vote victory. In his first-quarter report for this year, DesJarlais said he raised nearly $145,000 and had $144,000 in the bank as of March 30. His disclosure showed that at least some influential supporters from Murfreesboro, who backed Tracy last time, have returned to the congressman's camp.

Among them were several top officials at National Healthcare Corp., a Murfreesboro-based nursing home chain. That included NHC Vice President David Coggins. Also returning to the DesJarlais fold is Rutherford County Mayor Ernest Burgess.

"I feel a lot of the Murfreesboro folks are backing us this time," DesJarlais told the Times Free Press in an interview last month. He said NHC officials had hosted a first-quarter fundraiser for him.

During the same interview, the congressman said he hopes his 2014 win put past controversies behind him. His second marriage is stable and happy, he said.

"I think most people go through highs and lows in life," said DesJarlais. "I obviously regret mistakes I've made in life. I've learned from them and tried to be a better person."

Shortly after announcing his challenge, Starrett said he had raised $500,000, with half the money coming from his own coffers

Though DesJarlais' conservative voting record won him staunch tea party support, Starrett has several votes that he says show the congressman isn't quite the conservative he portrays himself to be.

DesJarlais says he votes his district's wishes and that occasionally puts him at odds with vote scoring by various conservative groups.


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  • published this page in In the News 2015-07-06 06:30:58 -0500