He may not be the most interesting man in the world or for that matter in Congress. But he may be the best politician.
Two years ago, Tennessee Rep. Scott DesJarlais squeaked out victory. Many political pros said it would be his last win.
Mr. DesJarlais is a doctor by profession. He came out of nowhere in 2010 to win first the Republican primary and then take out an incumbent Democrat who few believed would be beaten.
But that was 2010. It was the year of the Tea Party and Mr. DesJarlais embraced the Tea Party movement.
As the 2010 election drew to a close, the campaign of Lincoln Davis went very negative on Mr. DesJarlais. It brought out details of his nasty divorce about 10 years earlier. There were allegations of divorce, domestic violence and possibly a suicidal gesture.
By 2012, more negative information came about Mr. DesJarlais. There were allegations that the pro-life congressman had encouraged his then-wife to have one or two abortions and may have encouraged a woman he had a relationship with to have one as well. For Mr. DesJarlais, the publicity got worse. There were allegations that he had sexual relationships with patients and eventually the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners disciplined Mr. DesJarlais.
Mr. DesJarlais was a thorn in the side of the Republican leadership and establishment. He was consistently rated as one of the five most conservative members of Congress.
After the 2012 election, the Republican establishment in Tennessee began pressuring Mr. DesJarlais to resign. Tennessee’s moderate Republican governor, Bill Haslam, began to hint that Mr. DesJarlais should resign. In politics, there is the public reason for their actions and a private one.
The private reason was they wanted a more moderate, establishment Republican in that seat.
Mr. DesJarlais wouldn’t take the hint and decided to run again in 2014. All of the experts wrote him off. His opponent was state Sen. Jim Tracy. Mr. Tracy represents a safe Republican district in middle Tennessee, just to the south of Nashville. Mr. Tracy has a campaign smoothness that has always eluded Mr. DesJarlais.
Mr. DesJarlais prepared for the 2014 campaign. He spent a lot of time in the District with his constituents and with his wife. Mr. Tracy had run for Congress in 2010 against Diane Black. Ms. Black ultimately defeated Mr. Tracy, and Mr. Tracy’s home was redistricted out of Ms. Black’s district. In 2014, Ms. Black supported Mr. Tracy against Mr. DesJarlais.
Against all of this, Mr. DesJarlais pulled out the impossible on Aug. 7 in the Republican primary.
He defeated Mr. Tracy by a slim margin.
Politico just did a piece on Mr. DesJarlais, calling him the biggest hypocrite in Congress. In a Congress that includes Democrats Nancy Pelosi and Shelia Jackson Lee, it is clear Politico has drifted into the realm of creative writing.
How does such a scandal-ridden congressman win re-election? How does he do it when the establishment of his party is working against him?
It is simple.
He represents his district’s stakeholders the way they want him to.
Since entering Congress, there has not been a whiff of scandal around Mr. DesJarlais. Whatever he was doing 10 years ago, is apparently in his past. Today, he is doing what is supposed to do.
Mr. DesJarlais’ opponents have been reduced to attacking his past, not his record. Tennessee’s 4th Congressional District is a very conservative district.
Mr. DesJarlais is well known in his district and more importantly, votes the way his constituents want him to.
Today, most politicians go to Washington telling the voters they will do one thing and in reality do just the opposite.
Mr. DesJarlais is a welcome change from that.
He does what the people who put him in office want him to do. That makes him the best politician in Washington.