State election officials say they will move to speed up the finalization of results from Thursday's primaries in the 4th Congressional District, but it may be weeks before the outcome becomes clear in the race between U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais and state Sen. Jim Tracy. Secretary of State Tre Hargett and coordinator of elections Mark Goins told reporters in a conference call after midnight on Friday morning that they have begun to contact election commissions in the 16-county districts to move up meetings to certify the results of the race, which DesJarlais appears to have won by 35 votes based on unofficial returns.
Only three congressional Republican incumbents have lost primary fights this year: Virginia's Eric Cantor, Texas' Ralph Hall, and Michigan's Kerry Bentivolio. Will Tennessee's Scott DesJarlais join the small club?
It's apparently too soon to say.
DesJarlais' 35-vote margin is, of course, a remarkably narrow advantage given that more than 70,000 votes were cast in the race. It's the kind of margin that's so small, it's fairly easy to imagine the scales tipping the other way after a recount.
But what makes this House contest so interesting is the fact that DesJarlais, in theory, shouldn't be competitive at all.
For those who've missed our previous coverage, we learned a couple of years ago that DesJarlais was caught up in a sordid tale in which he committed adultery by sleeping with a patient -- he's a medical doctor by trade -- then pressured his mistress to have an abortion in the hopes of hiding his misdeeds from the wife he allegedly abused.
The affair was one of "at least four" extra-marital relationships DesJarlais acknowledged in court documents.
Worse, during a messy break-up with his ex-wife, DesJarlais also allegedly held a gun in his mouth for three hours, "dry fired" a gun outside his wife's locked bedroom door.
That said, DesJarlais has been a reliably conservative vote and in this "red" Tennessee district, many Republican voters appear willing to overlook his alleged personal misdeeds.