Stewart, who was unopposed in this month's Democratic primary, had challenged Republican incumbent DesJarlais to three debates, issuing a press release on election night and later sending a formal request.
Here is DesJarlais' response, as provided by the DesJarlais campaign to the Marshall County Tribune and as quoted in a news release from Stewart:
"As you know well, defining your candidacy and building awareness is both difficult and expensive. However, taking a firm stand on issues and offering thoughtful solutions is not. I have yet to see you put forth any substantive platform, only empty slogans and negative attacks. The people I serve deserve to know who you feel should lead our nation as president and for you to be forthcoming in your views on key issues. While I am open to revisiting the debate question later in the campaign, your lack of clarity on the issues gives me no reason for or basis from which we could currently debate.
"Dr. Scott DesJarlais, M.D."
"I am shocked, but not surprised, that DesJarlais does not want to face voters and have a debate over the issues important to people in this district," said Stewart in a news release. "Congressman DesJarlais has bragged about being part of a 'Do Nothing Congress,' and now it's clear that he wants to be a 'Do Nothing Candidate.'
"The people in the 4th Congressional district deserve to have the opportunity for all candidates for public office to come before them and give them the chance to look both candidates in the eyes and hear where they stand on issues," Stewart said.
Stewart planned a press conference this morning in Murfreesboro to discuss "issues important in this race" and said he would make an announcement about his campaign.
Stewart is an insurance agent from Winchester; DesJarlais, completing his first term in Congress, is a physician from Jasper.
Bedford County was moved out of the 6th Congressional District, currently represented by Diane Black, and into the 4th, currently represented by DesJarlais, as a result of the 2010 Census; the change takes effect with this election cycle.
Stewart cited the district changes and the fact that many voters aren't familiar with one or the other candidate as a reason debates would be beneficial.