Saying the realigned 4th District leaves the race for Congress wide open, state Sen. Eric Stewart came to McMinnville on Friday to campaign in hopes of defeating first-term Congressman Dr. Scott DesJarlais.
“There are six counties that are totally new to the 4th District after re-apportionment,” Stewart said Friday while talking to constituents on Court Square. “That means over 60 percent of those voting in the election were not in the district when my opponent was elected two years ago.”
The dramatic change which also trimmed the district, formerly with 24 counties now down to 16, also left the district with one major county – Rutherford County – which carries 37 percent of all the voters in the district.
The 4th District now stretches north past Smyrna, west near Columbia, south past Fayetteville and east to Cleveland, leaving out the greater Chattanooga area. DesJarlais was elected to office following a landslide in 2010 in the old district, defeating incumbent Democrat Lincoln Davis.
Also playing in Stewart’s favor, the candidate believes, are six counties which are in his state Senate district. Stewart is in his first term as state senator, an office he will relinquish given his run for U.S. Representative.
While the newly carved district makes for an interesting race, Stewart said voters will have two very different candidates to choose from.
“There are a lot of differences between us,” Stewart said, noting he disagrees with DesJarlais on going to a voucher system when it comes to Medicare. “The debt and deficit have to be priorities but you don’t have to sacrifice Medicare to do it.”
Stewart believes his time in Nashville in the General Assembly have helped prepare him for Washington, noting if nothing else, he has learned to compromise.
“If all you do is talk to folks who think exactly like you, then you aren’t going anywhere,” Stewart said, noting he has collaborated with Republicans like Judd Matheny on many occasions to get things done. “That’s a problem in Washington, people don’t know how to compromise. We have been able to do that, to a point, in Nashville.”
As for laying out his platform, Stewart questioned why DesJarlais will not debate him on the issues.
“I think it is important the issues are discussed so the voters can make an informed choice,” Stewart said, saying he is ready to debate anytime, anywhere. “I will commit now that if I win in November, two years from now I will accept an invitation to a forum here.”