Despite widespread speculation he would challenge Rep. Scott DesJarlais for Tennessee's 4th District congressional seat this fall, state Sen. Bill Ketron announced Monday he would sit out the race and focus on continuing his job as senator.
Ketron, a member of the state congressional redistricting committee and a long-time aspirant of Congress, was expected by many to be mounting a campaign against DesJarlais, a freshman Republican. Once newly formed district lines revealed his home county of Rutherford would be included within district boundaries, many expected an announcement from the senator within days.
But after several days of relative silence, Ketron cited concerns for his family as the driving reason behind his decision not to enter the race.
"The most important step in launching any campaign, however, is to evaluate the impact it will have on your family," Ketron said in a statement. "My family is my inspiration and support. My father, who was my best friend, passed away 11 months ago. I made a promise to him that I would take care of my mother, my family and the business that he started 43 years ago."
The senator also mentioned his position of leadership in the Legislature allowing him to be more effective in having an influence on his home district. To do the same in Congress, he said, would take him several years.
"It has taken us years, working together in the Legislature, to move Tennessee forward in becoming one of the best states in the country to live and work," he said. "I am honored to have played a role in those changes but feel my work is not done here. I can be much more productive by being one of 33 instead of one of 435 and starting at the bottom."
Ketron made no mention in his statement of the $436,823 cash-on-hand reported by DesJarlais earlier this month, well ahead of the Federal Election Commission deadline for releasing campaign finance reports. Along with releasing the fundraising data, DesJarlais had already begun launching his first campaign radio ads across the region.
While he did not mention any relief at having to no longer think about a potentially strong challenge from a fellow Republican, the congressman said in a brief statement he looked forward to building upon his relationship with Ketron.
"If given the honor of representing the newly drawn 4th Congressional District, I hope to continue to work with Sen. Ketron and all the members of the Tennessee General Assembly on issues important to Tennesseans," he said.
State Sen. Eric Stewart, a Democrat, is the only person to have officially announced a campaign to challenge DesJarlais so far.