NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - With scandal-plagued U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais holding a razor-thin lead, election officials Monday examined the provisional ballots in a too-close-to-call Republican primary whose final outcome may not be known for weeks.
There is no official figure yet on the number of ballots to be added to the overall count from Thursday’s election. But a county-by-county rundown by The Associated Press in DesJarlais’ district indicated no more than a few dozen provisional ballots in the mix - suggesting that challenger state Sen. Jim Tracy would need the lion’s share of the votes to overcome the current 35-vote gap, according to unofficial results.
Voters who cast ballots in the race have until the close of the business day Monday to present proper identification so their votes count. Election officials also said it could take days to research whether some voters who cast provisional ballots were legitimately registered in spite of not being listed as eligible to vote.
Both DesJarlais and Tracy have declared themselves the winner of the primary, and both have hired attorneys for possible recount challenges.
The results of the election have to be certified by Aug. 25. The losing candidate will have up to five days to file a challenge, said Blake Fontenay, a spokesman for the Tennessee Secretary of State.
“(The Republican State Executive Committee) would decide whether or not to hear the challenge, and if they were to hear the challenge they would decide what the appropriate action to take would be,” said Fontenay.
DesJarlais, a Jasper physician, was first elected in 2010 after running on a pro-life, family-values platform. Some pundits all but declared his political career over after legal records surfaced that cast him as a serial adulterer who urged a pregnant girlfriend to have an abortion.
Court transcripts released days after his 2012 re-election revealed that DesJarlais admitted to having eight affairs, encouraged a mistress to get an abortion and used a gun to intimidate his first wife. Court proceedings also revealed that the Congressman and his first wife made a mutual decision that she have abortions.
The Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners fined and reprimanded DesJarlais last year for having sex with patients.