With just over two weeks before election day, airwaves in every state are filled with attack ads pitting Republicans against Democrats, and challengers versus incumbents, as each politician scrambles for every last advantage before the final vote is cast. In the 4th congressional district in Tennessee, this shouldn’t have been a last minute push. Republican Congressman Scott DesJarlais was on firm footing before a transcript was released revealing he had urged a woman with whom he’d had an affair to get an abortion when they thought she was pregnant. DesJarlais said she was never actually pregnant, and that he was attempting to scare her into admitting as much, but for a conservative who publicly presents himself as adamantly pro-life, it has provided an opening to Democrats both in the state and out.
Democratic national special interest groups are now pouring money into an ad campaign targeting DesJarlias and what some see as his obvious hypocrisy on the issue of abortion. The House Majority super PAC, committed to trying to regain Democratic control of the House, is spending $100,000 in commercials calling DesJarlais’s ethics into question. According to Knoxnews.com:
The 30-second spot begins with a narrator saying, “Trust and faith. As a doctor, Scott DesJarlais earned his patients’ trust.” The ad then cuts to media coverage of DesJarlais having a conversation — in 2000, as related in a transcript the congressman does not dispute — with a woman he met as a patient and urged to get an abortion.
The Democratic PAC isn’t the only one getting involved, either. Huffington Post reports that actress Ashely Judd has sent out a fundraising email on behalf of DesJarlais’s opponent, Eric Stewart, urging financial support for the final days of the campaign.
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“For as far back as I remember, politicians have gotten a bad reputation for saying one thing and doing another. And, this past week Congressman Scott Desjarlais proved why,” Judd said in the email, referring to news of a transcribed recording of DesJarlais pushing the woman to get an abortion.
“Whether or not we agree or disagree with the issue of abortion, we need to trust our elected leaders that they are who they say they are,” Judd said before making a fundraising pitch for Stewart. “Eric is a leader we can trust and it’s far past time we hold Scott Desjarlais accountable for his hypocrisy.”
DesJarlais holds a large advantage in fundraising, and is using that to fight back against the last minute focus on his affair, instead criticizing Stewart over his refusal to agree to vote to repeal Obamacare if elected. According to the Tennessee Journal, the $250,000 ad buy will focus on Stewart’s lukewarm support of the Affordable Care Act, and will state: “Great — a word used to describe a quiet moment of fishing, a Vols win, a plate of barbecue. But great is how Eric Stewart describes Obamacare. … There are a lot of great things in Tennessee, but Eric Stewart and Obamacare are not one of them.”
The first-term congressman’s campaign cites a Chattanooga Times-Free Press article in which Stewart is quoted as saying repeal of Obamacare would eliminate three key provisions: removing a gap in Medicare drug coverage for seniors referred to as the “doughnut hole”; requiring insurance companies to provide coverage for pre-existing health conditions; and allowing young adults to continue to be covered by their parents’ insurance policies up to age 26.
“Given all those great things that are in it, no, I wouldn’t vote to repeal it,” Stewart said in the cited article. “Now, it still needs some work. … What we need are leaders who can go up there and do the job they were sent to do and that’s work together and solve the problems.”
DesJarlais is currently serving his first year in Congress, elected in the great Republican wave election in 2010.