Tea party's last chance in 2014 primaries comes down to Tennessee Senate race
Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee
August 7th, 2014
08:37 AM ET
3 months ago

Tea party's last chance in 2014 primaries comes down to Tennessee Senate race

(CNN) – The Republican primary in Tennessee on Thursday is the tea party's last chance - albeit a distant one - to beat an establishment incumbent this election year.

Longtime GOP Sen. Lamar Alexander is defending his seat against state Rep. Joe Carr.

Despite picking up endorsements from conservative powerhouse Sarah Palin and the Tea Party Nation, it's an uphill battle for Carr, who trails the two-term senator in the polls.

Not to mention, Alexander handily won his last election with 65% of the vote and has raised significantly more campaign cash.

Carr pegs campaign on immigration

Carr has staked his campaign largely on Alexander's stance on immigration, slamming the two-term senator's vote last year for the Senate's comprehensive immigration reform bill - legislation that ultimately stalled in the House.

Alexander was among 14 GOP senators who voted for the comprehensive bill that Carr contends amounts to amnesty for undocumented immigrants.

The issue of immigration is back into the national spotlight as a surge of unaccompanied minors from Central America are crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, flooding emergency facilities and igniting a debate in Washington over what to do with the latest influx of immigrants.

As Congress and the White House lock horns over the border crisis, Alexander, known as a lawmaker willing to work with Democrats to broker bipartisan deals, recently aligned himself with tea party star and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz on the issue.

Alexander's campaign hasn't been taking any chances from the beginning, running campaign ads as early as last July before he had any primary challengers.

Carr has also made a push for defunding Obamacare, as well as arguing Alexander is out of step with Tennessee voters.

The state representative was originally planning to challenge Republican Rep. Scott DesJarlais in Tennessee's 4th U.S. Congressional District, but dropped his bid in order to take on Alexander.

Tea party wins spark hope for Carr

Carr's campaign received a jolt of enthusiasm after little-known professor David Brat upset House Majority Leader Eric Cantor earlier this year in Virginia's GOP primary.

Fewer wins this time, but tea party has changed the GOP

Then, longtime Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi was forced into a runoff against tea party challenger Chris McDaniel after initial primary results were too close to call. Cochran narrowly beat McDaniel in the runoff but the challenger's campaign is contesting those results.

"Make no mistake about it - the fight that Chris McDaniel started in Mississippi will continue here in Tennessee," Carr said after the Mississippi runoff.

But unlike McDaniel, polls indicate Carr's the distinct underdog to Alexander. And, aside from the ongoing vote battle in Mississippi and Brat's unexpected victory over Cantor, the establishment wing of the Republican Party has come away from this election cycle relatively unscathed.

Five other lesser known candidates are competing in Thursday's GOP contest in Tennessee, a factor Alexander benefits from as grassroots support is divided behind his leading challenger.

The winner of the Republican primary will go on to face one of four Democrats and a series of third party candidates in November's general election, though the seat is considered a safe bet for Republicans.

CNN's Ashley Killough and Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.


Filed under: 2014 • Congress • Lamar Alexander • Senate • Tennessee
soundoff (65 Responses)
  1. Chris..E.Al

    Lamar A wins ?

    August 7, 2014 08:41 am at 8:41 am |
  2. Lynda/Minnesota

    "The Republican primary in Tennessee on Thursday is the tea party's last chance – albeit a distant one – to beat an establishment incumbent this election year."

    You know, CNN ... this willingness to continue promoting Sarah Palin's extremely boring and noxious talking points is getting old. There is no longer a "TeaParty". Just as there is no longer an "establishment" Republican. They are ALL one in the same ... battling for ideologies that are no longer a viable asset to the United States of America.

    August 7, 2014 09:00 am at 9:00 am |
  3. Gurgyl

    --this nation is lot better off if it removes all these Republican junk for a while.

    August 7, 2014 09:09 am at 9:09 am |
  4. Tampa Tim

    Lamar is an establishment nut job republican from TN who will represent Mississippi well.

    August 7, 2014 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  5. Luc

    Sarah Palin powerhouse every time she speaks and supports someone they loose. WOW what a powerhouse. Don't make me laugh. Why do you think the GOP have a problem winning POTUS because of wack jobs like her.

    August 7, 2014 09:21 am at 9:21 am |
  6. Rudy NYC

    Lynda wrote:

    There is no longer a "TeaParty". Just as there is no longer an "establishment" Republican. They are ALL one in the same ... battling for ideologies that are no longer a viable asset to the United States of America.
    ------------------------–
    [co-sign]

    Yeah, what she said.

    August 7, 2014 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  7. Lynda/Minnesota

    @ Rudy

    Good morning! Funny thing is, I spent the past week at the cabin soaking up peace and quiet. My comment reminded me of a dog down the road from us, who, when he saw me coming his way on my morning walks, kept nudging me to go around his side of the road, but not directly in front if it. Once I walked past his property line, he'd sit and wait for me to return, ready to nudge me back to the other side of the road where – to that dog's mindset – I belonged. This is what CNN is attempting with its constant "TeaParty" vs "Establishment" rhetoric: trying to nudge us in the direction it wants us to go, whether we agree or not. GOPerville has been nudging and fudging us as well.

    August 7, 2014 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  8. Rudy NYC

    @Lynda

    Cute story. I'd be curious to know what gender the dog was. I don't think there is any nefarious scheme at work. The fact of the matter is that there *is* a significant rift on the right, and the more they try to deny it, the more media will shine a light on it.

    August 7, 2014 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  9. rick

    Only time anybody ever hears from Lamar is on re election day and vote for me constant comercials. And the only thing the comercials say is he asked ONE QUESTION to the president on a hearing about obamacare. Absolutly NOTHING else done during entire time in office. ONE QUESTION.. Same thing over and over and over and over... And help finagle over 800 illegal immagrant children into the state without telling the govenor. That CNN blogged about not long ago. There are over 40 positions up for re election on ballot today. And a lot are real worried..

    August 7, 2014 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  10. Sniffit

    "conservative powerhouse Sarah Palin "

    LOL. I suppose that's an ok analogy for Jabberwocky Barbie: both she and powerhouses spew toxicity into the environment in which they're located. I suppose that makes you her smokestack CNN...concentrating and channeling it all for delivery into our atmosphere.

    August 7, 2014 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  11. definitely

    At least conservatives have a choice, the democrats only have the same old Reid puppets.

    August 7, 2014 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  12. labman57

    The reason for the tea party's mediocre performance in this year's legislative primaries - most Republicans have had a 'butt-full' of crazy.

    August 7, 2014 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  13. definitely

    Gurgyl –this nation is lot better off if it removes all these Democratic junk for a while.

    August 7, 2014 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  14. luke, AZ

    The tea party should form their own party if they believe so strongly in their beliefs. These people have no guts. They have obstructed the progress of our nation at every turn. Moderate republicans need to take back their party from these confederates.

    August 7, 2014 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  15. Gurgyl

    -eh!!! Thom Tillis opposes EQUAL PAY for women, do you know, it is Republican junk–not democratic. These GOP thugs live in cage era.

    August 7, 2014 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  16. salty dog

    Yup, you must give more, so the wealthiest won't have too, it will make you rich, and cut funding for all services: the rich don't need them, still amazed at how some actually believe giving more to the richest will solve the problem of the rich having to much, and the rest of society can't support the economy with what's left, just mind blowing, really is.

    August 7, 2014 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  17. Lynda/Minnesota

    @ Rudy

    The dog is a male chocolate lab, still in it's puppy stage, but very territorial. I understand the rift within the party, and agree the media will focus on it; however, the rift isn't TeaPer vs Establishment (both ideologies have melded into one fairly large extreme). There is a lack of leadership within the party and not one candidate is ready or qualified to lead that party, let alone our country. This, I fear, is what the media is NOT focusing on - the lack of skilled leadership. They would rather we Americans concentrate on the TeaPer talking points, thus overlooking the elephant in the room.

    August 7, 2014 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  18. Malory Archer

    definitely
    Gurgyl –this nation is lot better off if it removes all these Democratic junk for a while.

    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Yeah, except we spent six years with the "Democratic junk" being in the minority in both the house & senate in VERY RECENT HISTORY while the reds ALSO held the WH, and when all was said and done, the nation had hit rock-bottom. President Obam a and the Dems have been trying to dig us out and were making pretty good progress until they lost the House in 2010 at which time began to regress until voters were smart enough to boot them from a few seats in 2012. If the "Democratic junk" is "removed for a while (sic)), America will be permanently relegated to third-world status.

    August 7, 2014 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  19. Malory Archer

    definitely
    At least conservatives have a choice, the democrats only have the same old Reid puppets.

    ++++++++++++++++++++++

    According to the reds, the Dems are running from President Obama and don't even want to be seen with him. Also according to the reds, Reid is an "Obama puppet". Since both can't be true, your little rant makes absolutely no sense.

    August 7, 2014 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  20. Rudy NYC

    definitely

    At least conservatives have a choice, the democrats only have the same old Reid puppets.
    -------------------------------
    There's nothing "choice" about the presumptive Republican field, not even "select." All conservatives have are options, not choices. Look at the polling on the right, the only clear leader is "some other candidate." That means you're out of choices. A "choice" candidate would be a clear leader in the polls.

    August 7, 2014 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  21. Coley

    Ten years from now, the Tea Party will be just a distant, unpleasant memory. And the former members? Those patriots will all be in assisted-care centers busy being force fed their strained prunes by people the patriots wouldn't give the time of day to....

    August 7, 2014 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  22. CALIFORNIA

    According to democrats the TEA PARTY was history years ago.

    YAWN.

    August 7, 2014 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  23. Malory Archer

    CALIFORNIA
    According to democrats the TEA PARTY was history years ago.

    YAWN.

    +++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Considering the guy in TN is their very LAST hope, the Dems were right.

    August 7, 2014 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  24. definitely

    luke, AZ The tea party should form their own party if they believe so strongly in their beliefs. These people have no guts. They have obstructed the progress of our nation at every turn. Moderate republicans need to take back their party from these confederates.

    The tea party is expanding its base while the democrats base is shrinking. Ha, ha, no guts to buck the Establishment! Obama and Reid are the masters of obstructionism. Don't know history do you The Democrats Were The Confederates.

    From Wikipedia:
    " In the 19th century, Southern Democrats comprised whites in the South who believed in Jacksonian democracy. In the 1850s they held that slavery was a good thing and promoted its expansion into the West. After Reconstruction ended in the late 1870s they controlled all the Southern states and disenfranchised the blacks (who were Republicans). The "Solid South" gave nearly all its electoral votes to Democrats in presidential elections. Republicans seldom were elected to office outside some mountain districts."

    August 7, 2014 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  25. smith1

    Sarah who??? why would anyone vote for these loony tunes. Best to vote them all out along with the republican do nothing congress. What a waste of tax payer dollars.

    August 7, 2014 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
1 2 3