The Secretary of State’s unofficial results Friday morning showed DesJarlais, a South Pittsburg physician, capturing 34,787 vote to Tracy’s 34,752, a 35-vote margin.
The unofficial results on the state’s website do not include provisional ballots, which are to be counted over the next few days, according to the Secretary of State’s office. The Associated Press still had not called a winner in the race Friday morning.
Provisional ballots could be necessary for cases in which voters don’t have a proper photo ID or if their signature isn’t listed but they claim to be registered in the precinct where they live. Rutherford County reportedly had eight provisional ballots that had to be verified, five of them involving photo IDS.
Tracy made a victory speech around 10 p.m. Thursday, claiming a win before late results came in that pushed DesJarlais ahead of him by 35 votes.
But two hours later, Tracy’s campaign issued a statement saying, “There are ballots left to be counted in the 4th District Republican primary. We eagerly await the final outcome once the counting is completed and verified.”
Then at 1 a.m. DesJarlais claimed victory.
“Despite my opponent spending more than a million dollars on desperate negative attacks, Tennesseans chose to judge me on my record in Washington,” DesJarlais said in a written statement. “I want to thank my constituents for voting to elect me to another term in Congress. I look forward to continuing my independent, conservative approach to stopping President Obama’s radical agenda.”
Around 9:45 Thursday night, Tracy, a Bedford County Republican, was ahead by about 230 votes district-wide. But by 10 p.m. he was claiming victory amid a throng of supporters and reporters at the Embassy Suites Hotel & Conference Center.
Tracy told the group his campaign knocked on more than 75,000 doors and made 100,000 personal phone calls. His campaign also started using negative TV ads against DesJarlais that attacked his character by focusing on revelations two years ago that he had affairs with patients and encouraged his now ex-wife to have abortions, according to court documents from divorce proceedings in the early 2000s.
Asked if he thought it helped for his campaign to challenge the integrity and morals of DesJarlais, Tracy would only say, “I think people are looking for a new direction. They’re looking for new ideas and someone who can get things done.”
People are frustrated with Congress, Tracy said, pointing toward a 19 percent approval rating among the public.
Tracy told reporters he wasn’t surprised that the vote was close and noted it is difficult to unseat an incumbent. Tracy outspent DesJarlais by a wide margin in the race.
The winner will face Democrat Lenda Sherrell in the November general election.