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Close 4th Congressional District Race Could Be Decided By Executive Committee

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Close 4th Congressional District Race Could Be Decided By Executive Committee

By Ben Hall. CREATED Aug 11, 2014

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The Republican primary in Tennessee's Fourth Congressional District was supposed to be over Thursday night, but it remains too close to call.

Embattled incumbent Congressman Scott DesJarlais leads challenger State Senator Jim Tracy by just 35 votes.

Counties are reviewing approximately 90 provisional ballots that could change the lead.

But the final decision may be made by the sixty-six members of the Republican Party's State Primary Board.

The board consists of Republican Executive Committee members.

If a candidate contests an election, the board reviews the challenge and determines whether the election is valid.

Both DesJarlais and Tracy have hired attorneys, and it seems likely the losing side would contest a race that is so close.

The State Republican Primary Board reviewed two contested county elections in May.

In both cases, the board sided with the candidate who received the most votes, despite claims by the losing candidates of voting irregularities.

A state party has overturned results in a close primary election before -- but it was not a Republican primary.

It was the bitter 2008 Democratic primary between State Senator Rosalind Kurita and Challenger Tim Barnes.

Kurita won the primary by just 19 votes, but Barnes claimed voting irregularities.

"I've got two voters that voted at 5:30, and were told 'Tim Barnes is a Republican.' They voted in the Republican Primary, and of course, my name wasn't there, and they couldn't vote again," Barnes said in a 2008 interview.

The Democratic Executive Committee voided the election, and made Barnes the winner.

Also at play was the fact Kurita had voted with Senate Republicans to make Ron Ramsey Lt. Governor.

Kurita sued the party for overturning her primary victory, but her suit was dismissed.

DesJarlais and Tracy claim it is too early talk about challenging the race.

The Republican Party wants to remain neutral.

To contest a race, the losing candidate must show evidence about why the results were wrong.

The sixteen counties in the Fourth Congressional District have until August 25 to certify the results.

Candidates have five days after the results are certified to challenge the results.

The State Republican Party released the following statement:

“According to state law, any Republican election contest would have to be submitted to the Tennessee Republican Party, acting as the State Republican Primary Board, within 5 days after election certification. If an election contest is received, the Primary Board would consider all arguments regarding a contest in a just and fair manner. The State Republican Party is neutral in all primaries and cannot speculate on any potential election contest."

Ben Hall

Ben Hall

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Ben Hall is a veteran reporter at NewsChannel 5. He has covered the state legislature, presidential campaigns and is presently part of NewsChannel 5's award-winning investigative unit.