After Months Of Avoidance, Lamar Alexander Acknowledges Challenger Joe Carr By Name

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee) is running for a third term, pictured here at a recent announcement regarding expansion of Volkswagen's Tennessee plant. While he has campaigned in the state, he's almost entirely ignored his competition. Credit: TN Photo Services

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee) is running for a third term. Pictured here at a recent announcement regarding expansion of Volkswagen’s Tennessee plant,  Alexander has campaigned in the state, though he’s almost entirely ignored his competition. Credit: TN Photo Services

Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander has gone out of his way to avoid saying the name of his most viable opponent in the Republican Primary, until now.

When state Rep. Joe Carr (R-Lascassas) started challenging Alexander to debates, the two-term senator avoided making it look like a head-to-head race.

“We’ll have to see,” Alexander said in June. “There are seven of us in the Republican primary for the Senate.”

It’s difficult to find anywhere in print that Alexander has even said the name “Joe Carr.” But now the campaign has gone on the attack, sending out mailers around Middle Tennessee that ask, “Can we trust Joe Carr in the United States Senate?”

A spokesman says it was time to “set the record straight” on issues like Common Core education standards, which Carr has been pounding Alexander for supporting.

“Some of Senator Alexander’s opponents are trying to confuse voters about his record,” writes spokesman Brian Reisinger. “Lamar is going to be senator the next six years, and we wanted to be sure voters in some Middle Tennessee counties were clear about his record.”

Carr’s camp is characterizing the flyer as a sign Alexander is worried and has again issued a debate challenge.

“What does it say about Lamar Alexander that he’s willing to take cheap-shots at me in a flier, but won’t stand-up and debate me in person?” Carr asks in a press release issued by the campaign.

Alexander has run harder than some political watchers expected, including a 35-city bus tour in the lead up to Election Day August 7th.

There’s been no independent polling in recent weeks. But asked to see internal numbers, the Alexander campaign provided results of a survey conducted between July 27-29 by Republican pollster Whit Ayers. Alexander registered 54 percent support from likely Republican voters. Carr was at 24 percent. Memphis businessman George Flinn sat at just 5 percent.

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