In this year’s Republican primaries for Senate, tea party challenger Joe Carr repeatedly accused incumbent Lamar Alexander of siding with Democrats and not being conservative enough. Alexander seemed to at least partially embrace that accusation during his acceptance speech.
“I want to look to independents and Democrats across the state and say if we want to change the direction of our state, then after we make our speeches, we’re going to have to roll up our sleeves, get together, work with each other and get something done.”
Rustin Suray, a student at Lipscomb University who volunteered on Alexander’s campaign, says she understands where Carr’s accusations came from, but that they were spun out of proportion.
“I think especially in the Senate, which is leaning heavily liberal right now, if you want to get something done, you have to compromise, especially if you’re in the minority,” she says.
Alexander did, however, say he was disappointed with President Obama and repeated a call to replace the Affordable Care Act.
Carr was relatively unknown to voters early in the campaign — a Vanderbilt poll in May found that more than half of Republican voters in Tennessee didn’t recognize his name. But he recently secured tea party endorsements from former Alaska governor Sarah Palin and conservative radio host Laura Ingraham, who slammed Alexander for not taking a strong anti-immigration stance.
Carr was hoping for an upset like in Virginia, where house majority leader Eric Cantor was ousted by another relatively unknown tea party candidate, Dave Brat.
Still, throughout the campaign, Alexander outraised his challenger five-to-one and, by the yet to be certified tally, beat Carr by nearly 10 points.
“People fondly remember Lamar as governor,” Carr told WPLN after conceding. “He ran his television ads about when he was governor and bringing the auto industry here and the highway. So everybody likes Lamar and it’s difficult to beat somebody when everybody likes him.”
Carr says he has “no regrets.” In his concession speech, he thanked the 20 legislators who supported his bid. He also thanked one of his biggest financial backers by name.
“We would not be here without you,” Carr said to cheers at the Embassy Suites in Murfreesboro. “I want to – in particular – thank Andy Miller. Andy miller is a brother in arms and I can never, ever repay what he has done.”
Miller – who is a Nashville investor known for supporting tea party candidates – pumped money into Carr’s campaign as well as related political action committees. He also took a questionable loan from the campaign and paid back $9,500 in interest, which the campaign said it first cleared with the Federal Election Commission.
Blake Farmer and David Smith contributed to this report.