Nashville Post
Stephen Elliott

A Rutherford County teacher has filed to challenge U.S. Rep Scott DesJarlais, R-South Pittsburg, in 2018.

Mariah Phillips is a current trainee with Emerge Tennessee, a new campaign training program for Democratic women, which launched in the state in the wake of Donald Trump’s surprising presidential victory last year.

Phillips announced her intention to run in a Facebook post earlier this month and submitted paperwork to the Federal Elections Commission this week. 

“Yesterday, my representative in Congress voted to pass a bill that will hurt many Tennessee families,” Phillips wrote the day after DesJarlais’ vote in favor of the American Health Care Act repealing Barack Obama’s signature Affordable Care Act. “As a citizen, mother, Christian and a teacher, I am devastated, not only because of the effects that my own family will endure, but the millions who will lose their healthcare and preventative care and the benefits of Medicaid assistance to children with disabilities.”
When reached by the Post, Phillips said she was organizing her campaign team but declined to comment further. The 4th Congressional District extends from Smyrna and Murfreesboro east to the Chattanooga suburbs. Prior to redistricting, the seat was held by prominent Democrats including Al Gore and current Rep. Jim Cooper, now of the 5th Congressional District.

Just last year, Phillips welcomed DesJarlais to her classroom at Daniel McKee Alternative School; the congressman was sponsoring some of Phillips’ students participating in a stock market simulation. The two were pictured together in the Daily News Journal.
"Our mission is clear: we recruit, train and inspire women to run for office on every level," Emerge Tennessee Executive Director Kristal Knight said. The program includes 70 hours of training, Knight added.
Phillips faces an uphill challenge, as DesJarlais has easily fended off Democratic challengers since he first won the seat in 2010. (In 2014, he defeated retired accountant Lenda Sherrell, the Monteagle woman listed as Phillips’ campaign treasurer.)

"Republican leadership has served Tennessee's 4th Congressional District well both on the state and federal levels. That is why voters last fall gave Republican Congressman DesJarlais a 31 point victory over his Democratic opponent and President Trump an overwhelming 41 point victory over Hillary Clinton,” Tennessee Republican Party spokesperson Candice Dawkins said. “Given the wide-spread success of Republicans, it is obvious that Democrats and their liberal policies just don’t resonate with Tennesseans in the 4th district."

But DesJarlais has encountered stiff competition from his own party since a scandal surfaced in 2012 involving extramarital affairs and the pro-life congressman encouraging his ex-wife to get abortions. 

In 2014, the incumbent won the Republican primary by just 38 votes. Last year, DesJarlais defeated upstart attorney and conservative activist Grant Starrett in the primary by 9 percentage points. 

In 2018, the congressman will again face a challenge from within his own party. Jack Maddux filed papers with the FEC last month; the Cleveland resident is a U.S. Navy veteran and former Chattanooga police officer, according to the Cleveland Daily Banner.

“I don’t like the direction things have taken over the last six years,” the conservative told the newspaper. “Our current congressman has a decent voting record, but he’s not a man of action. He has not passed any bills. He has never gotten a bill passed in a committee. I believe our area needs a strong leader.”

Featured In