Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander drew a Republican primary challenger Tuesday, when State Rep. Joe Carr announced that he would scuttle his plans to challenge Republican Rep. Scott DesJarlais for his congressional seat and jump into the Senate race instead.
Carr announced his primary challenge Tuesday morning, calling Alexander “the most liberal member of the delegation from Tennessee,” the Associated Press reports.
In response to the announcement, Carr’s top aide, Chip Saltsman, resigned from the campaign, writing in a letter, “I signed up to help you run for Congress, not the Senate,” before endorsing Alexander for re-election
“It is because of Lamar Alexander that people like you have the honor of serving in the majority of the state legislature,” Saltsman wrote, crediting Alexander with then-Vice President Al Gore losing his home state of Tennessee when he ran for president in 2000.
Last week, some tea party activists circulated a letter calling on Alexander to retire at the end of his term, saying his voting record was not conservative enough. Alexander was one of the Republicans who broke ranks to support the Senate immigration reform bill, and he helped come up with a bipartisan compromise on student loan rates.
Carr will have a heavy lift to match Alexander in fundraising. Alexander has $3,122,433 cash on hand as of his last filing with the Federal Election Commission. Carr’s $275,008 cash on hand looks paltry by comparison.
In a statement, Alexander’s campaign touted the senator’s conservatism and did not even mention Carr.
“Sen. Alexander has a conservative voting record,” the campaign said in a statement. “He has an A rating from the NRA and a 100 percent rating from both National Right to Life and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He will continue to do his best to use his experience and conservative principles to solve problems and get results for the people of Tennessee.”
Of course, Alexander may not have to deal with a challenge after all since he serves in the Senate; according, to Carr’s campaign, he is running for the “Sentate,” as Roll Call pointed out.