Challenger To Lamar Alexander Simultaneously Shuns, Accepts ‘Tea Party’ Label

Republican Joe Carr says he welcomes Tea Party support for his primary challenge to Senator Lamar Alexander. But the State Representative from Rutherford County says he doesn’t want to be pigeonholed as the Tea Party candidate. At a press conference in Murfreesboro on Tuesday, Carr highlighted what he saw as the differences between himself and Alexander. Carr says the Senator’s stances on issues like immigration, repealing Obamacare, and gun rights aren’t conservative enough.

State Rep. Joe Carr says he's heard from hundreds of people who urged him to run against Sen. Lamar Alexander in next year's Republican primary. Carr was first elected to the General Assembly in 2008. Image: Bradley George/WPLN

State Rep. Joe Carr says he’s heard from hundreds of people who urged him to run against Sen. Lamar Alexander in next year’s Republican primary. Carr was first elected to the General Assembly in 2008. Image: Bradley George/WPLN

It’s a claim echoed by Tea Party groups in Tennessee. But Carr stopped short of calling himself the Tea Party’s man in the Senate race.

“I’m a supporter of the Tea Party movement and its ideals, but this candidacy is much bigger than just being a Tea Party candidate,” he said. “I covet their support and their help, but we expect to have a broad coalition.”

Other candidates could challenge Alexander in the Republican primary Several Tea Party groups will host “vetting” sessions for these candidates, starting later this month. Carr says he’ll take part.

Closing The Fundraising Gap

Carr chastised Alexander for accepting money from lobbyists and political action committees. But he also aknolowdged he’s likely to take from some of those groups, as well.

“They have a vested interest. They picked their candidate. The conservative groups across this country will hopefully pick theirs,” Carr said. “That’s part of the political process. I’ve accepted it. We may not like it, but that’s the way it is.”

Carr is actually jumping from one race to another. He was running against 4th District Congressman Scott DesJarlais in his GOP primary. Carr raised about $300,000 in that race. All of that money will carry over to his Senate bid. But Lamar Alexander has a little more than $3 million in cash on hand for his campaign.

Leaving Carr’s Campaign To Support Alexander

Joe Carr’s congressional campaign manager resigned in protest of his move to challenge Alexander. Veteran Republican strategist Chip Saltsman says Alexander has “stayed true to his conservative ideals.” Saltsman also credits Alexander with helping Republicans come to power in the state.

“I just get real upset when people say Lamar is not conservative enough,” Saltsman says. “I’ve seen time and time again Lamar Alexander making strong conservative-based, ideologue decisions that affect this state and this country over the long term, not just over the short term.”

Saltsman previously chaired the Tennessee Republican Party.

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