MURFREESBORO — State Rep. Joe Carr on Thursday joined state Sen. Jim Tracy in the race to oust embattled U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais in next year's Republican primary.
Carr, a Murfreesboro business consultant, made his announcement from a balcony overlooking the Middle Tennessee Medical Center, which he said "represents some of the paralysis that has engulfed this county."
"We've got a state of the art medical community over here, and it's in peril because of one thing, and one thing only: and that's the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare," he said.
Carr said beyond his opposition to the federal health care law, his campaign would focus on supporting gun rights and tighter enforcement of immigration laws. Carr notably skipped a key vote on the so-called "guns in trunks" bill, which allows gun owners to store their weapons in cars, to raise money for his congressional bid.
"At the very least the immigration reform that is being touted by some of my colleagues in the Republican Party are premature," he said.
Carr's exploratory committee raised about $205,000 in the first quarter of the year. Meanwhile, Tracy's campaign reported last month that he had raised more than $436,000 in the first quarter, while DesJarlais raised $105,000.
DesJarlais, a Jasper physician, has struggled to raise money since winning re-election last year amid revelations that a phone call was recorded with him urging a patient with whom he was having an affair to seek an abortion.
The congressman denied during the campaign that he had recorded the call, but in his 2001 testimony he acknowledged that he did. DesJarlais said he was only trying to get her to admit she wasn't pregnant.
Carr cast himself as the outsider willing to take on the entrenched interests.
"Don't misunderstand me: This is going be difficult," he said. "Because who we're standing against ... is some of our Republican colleagues. We're standing against, in some respects, the establishment."
Carr acknowledged that more than one candidate in the primary could improve DesJarlais's chances, but predicted that conservative voters would come to embrace his positions.
Carr also said he was undaunted by Tracy's long list of endorsements and financial backers.
"I think what the voters are looking for is more than the same good old boy politics that we've become accustomed to," Carr said.
Tracy, a Shelbyville insurance agent and former college basketball referee, previously ran for Congress in 2010 before his county was moved from the 6th District as part of redistricting.