Rep. Scott DesJarlais paid a hefty price to secure re-election in Tennessee’s 4th District, exhausting more than $1.2 million on his campaign-including more than $430,000 spent during its last days.
That leaves the congressman with less than $16,000 after a difficult race, campaign finance records show.
DesJarlais, a physician from Jasper, appeared to be in solid standing in his first bid for re-election to the House.
But a month before Election Day, the congressman would become embroiled in scandal after reports revealed he had engaged in sexual relationships with at least two patients and pressured one to terminate a pregnancy while undergoing a bitter, drawn-out divorce with his ex-wife more than a decade ago.
Since his defeat of Democratic challenger Eric Stewart by a margin of nearly 12 percent, further details have surfaced about the pro-life congressman’s troubled past-including supporting his ex-wife’s decision to have two abortions.
The details triggered a new round of public outcry against the congressman and all but ensured DesJarlais of a primary challenge in 2014. For at least four Republicans who are publicly said to be exploring runs, DesJarlais’s low cash reserves may make the prospect of waging a primary challenge all the more appealing.
“He has to anticipate he’ll have a primary challenger on his hands,” Bruce Oppenheimer, professor of public policy and education for Vanderbilt University, said. “He had to spend a lot to get re-elected. Being an incumbent and being in office will certainly help him, but what will be interesting to see is how effective his fundraising efforts will beand whether people will stick around with him or not.”
Oppenheimer added that a crowded field of primary challengers could work to the congressman’s benefit, ultimately splitting votes against constituents who may not support him.
“That’s one of the best things that could happen to him,” he said.
DesJarlais has said he intends to run again in 2014 and that he will stay in office as long as voters desire for him to do so. But already, supporters have shown signs of drawing back on their support for the congressman, including at least six medical political action committees who supported him this cycle, according to a Chattanooga Times Free Press report.
In other campaign finance-related news, Rep. Chuck Fleischmann was shown to have roughly $51,000 in campaign cash left in his account. The congressman, who spent the bulk of his resources fending off two well-backed challengers during the August primary, spent more than $1.3 million on his re-election efforts.
Sen. Bob Corker, who coasted in his first bid for re-election, reported having more than $6.2 million in cash-on-hand.