Incumbent GOP Senator defeats tea party backed candidate in Tennessee Senate race
August 8th, 2014
01:17 AM ET
1 month ago

Incumbent GOP Senator defeats tea party backed candidate in Tennessee Senate race

(CNN) – Longtime GOP Sen. Lamar Alexander easily won the Tennessee Republican primary Thursday, defeating tea party backed candidate state Rep. Joe Carr.

With nearly all precincts accounted for, Alexander held off Carr with just under 50% of the vote while Carr received just over 40%, according to the Associated Press.

The Republican primary was the tea party's last chance - albeit a distant one - to beat an establishment incumbent this election year.

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

Alexander thanked Carr and the other candidates from his campaign headquarters Thursday night and quickly turned the focus to November’s election.

“Those who voted in the Republican primary wanted to send a different sort of message, a message to President Obama that we're not happy.  We're very disappointed in the direction of our country and we're hopeful of having after November a new Republican majority in the United States Senate to lead our country in a different direction.”

Carr pegged campaign on immigration

Carr had 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 hadn't taken any chances from the beginning, running campaign ads as early as last July before he had any primary challengers.

Carr had 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 sparked 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 indicated Carr was 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 were competing in Thursday's GOP contest in Tennessee, a factor Alexander benefits from as grassroots support is divided behind his leading challenger.

Alexander 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, Paul Steinhauser, and Jonathan Helman contributed to this report.


Filed under: 2014 • Congress • Lamar Alexander • Senate • Tennessee
soundoff (27 Responses)
  1. Throw OUT all Democrat D-Baggers from Congress

    A safe seat for Republicans as the D-bag Democrats don't have a chance because of all the lies they have told the American people, especially the lying D-bag-in-Chief.

    August 8, 2014 02:21 am at 2:21 am |
  2. Mr. Balls

    So far there are no responses. Is it possible no one really cares about Tennessee politics?

    August 8, 2014 02:43 am at 2:43 am |
  3. stormchaser 101

    Tenn rethugs found some backbone to reject teaklan.all teaklan got to go.obstruction and gov shutdown is not what americans want.

    August 8, 2014 03:47 am at 3:47 am |
  4. Clay

    That old fart needs to retire and go home. I have never seen sure crazies in congress. At one time I had great respect for congress, now they are a joke, a bunch of clowns.

    August 8, 2014 05:27 am at 5:27 am |
  5. Clay

    Fat boy Christie will break up all the chairs and beds in the White House. If tubby fat boy becomes president, remove all historic furniture and replace with steel. Fat boy will stink up the joint and eat all the damn food. Air Force one wouldn't make it off the ground. Christie would be an embarrassment .

    August 8, 2014 05:37 am at 5:37 am |
  6. NATHAN WIMBERLY

    Snooki Palin kills another campaign. Guns Over People teatards will scream voter fraud like they always do when they don't have the votes needed to win.

    August 8, 2014 05:54 am at 5:54 am |
  7. Name JK. SFL. THE GOP THE NATIONAL JOKE PARTY , WE WONT PASS ANYTHING AND STILLGET PAID

    All republicans are in for a big surprise in November when they are replaced by democrats. I suppose you GOP fools think no GOP OBSTRUCTIONEST senators are going to be replaced???? I have one word for you GOP CLOWNS ----CANTOR!!!! He was just a sample.

    August 8, 2014 06:04 am at 6:04 am |
  8. Charles Hawkins

    When the Train Party loses the USA wins.

    August 8, 2014 06:21 am at 6:21 am |
  9. Marie MD

    The devil you know.

    August 8, 2014 06:41 am at 6:41 am |
  10. croaton999

    Who cares?

    August 8, 2014 07:11 am at 7:11 am |
  11. rick

    DesJarleis even though the numbers show a loss by him for the re election. Will not confirm it. And is denying the results. Even with confirmed proof of his multipul affairs and coersions of women he denied that too. Guess hes super scared of the unemployment line. Only one district to count left. Was close by at this time of 50 or less votes. But the section to be counted is not a supporter of him. But most likely will refuse that and contest it too. Guy wants the free money to stay in his pocket. No matter the results. Gotta pay for all those abortions of his girlfriends to keep him from paying child support..

    August 8, 2014 07:47 am at 7:47 am |
  12. salty dog

    It takes real hope, and faith to keep from being frightened, they plan on giving your livelihood from you, your social security, Medicaid, how you can consciously vote for this is unimaginable. Are things really that bad, and what really has the gop done to help. Listen to what the experts said caused the recession, and listen and look and see what the gop wants, more war, and more money for the richest, more tax cuts for the top earners is ridiculous, how do you think we reaches record inequality, worse than the gilded age. And the experts shake their collective heads when the rich cry foul, and demand more tax cuts, why don't you, believe the rich man and his puppets, or a career economist, world renowned no less.

    August 8, 2014 08:04 am at 8:04 am |
  13. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Seems that 'Meriku is rejecting outright crazies and choosing the more nuanced Screw You First, Country Last remaining members of the GOP.
    Hard to get excited or hopeful over this.
    Either way the rest of us are screwed.

    August 8, 2014 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  14. ChrisM

    Ha, so far the tea people have only won One primary this election season. And that was the primary that replaced Eric Cantor. Hahahahaha

    August 8, 2014 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  15. Randy, San Francisco

    The Tea Party influence may be waning but remains potent enough to cause mischief. It doesn't bode well for the continuing dysfunction in Congress when Speaker Boehner loses control of his House Republican Caucus to Tea Party leader Sen Ted Cruz.

    August 8, 2014 08:58 am at 8:58 am |
  16. Lynda/Minnesota

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

    Well, okay. And now that the primaries are over for the Republican party, perhaps CNN can spend some time explaining the difference between the Republican "tea party" and the Republican "establishment", starting with platform differences and other general policies never mentioned by the media.

    August 8, 2014 09:00 am at 9:00 am |
  17. ritmocojo

    In the ear, TeaPotty!

    August 8, 2014 09:05 am at 9:05 am |
  18. Rudy NYC

    Republicans are in for a hot foot this fall. Some are eager to make the play that they feel they were cheated out of making back in 2012. They had wanted to make a terrorist attack a campaign wedge issue, and doggone it they aim to do it this election cycle.

    They have their special Benghazi investigation kicking off in September, which is prime time to put the non-existent scandal squarely in the minds of voters. Voters will see and hear all of the details of the non-existent, and will giggle in horror as the Republicans shoot themselves in the foot time and time again.

    August 8, 2014 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  19. S.B. Stein

    I have mixed feelings about these so called tea party people. They have a legitimate right as other citizens do to participate. My first question is if these people were so really concerned about spending, then where were they during the previous administration of George W. Bush? He signed off on Medicare part D that wasn't paid for in any way and had not found ways to cover the any of the costs of Iraq (unnecessary) and Afghanistan (required) conflicts. There are other programs and times that they could have fought against government spending. Where were they during the Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Clinton Administrations as well? They could have done something then to cut spending. As for the ACA that they and others don't like, I would like them to have another option that gets people medical insurance coverage so that these people don't go to the ER unless it is an emergency. The individual mandate shows that individuals are to have responsibility for their actions and lives. Isn't that what many people everywhere believe?

    Yes, there are visible minority members of this group, but it seems that there wasn't any growth of this group until Obama was elected president. There seems to be an underlying racist element in some segments of this group, but not all of the groups believe this I am sure.

    August 8, 2014 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  20. Lynda/Minnesota

    "We're very disappointed in the direction of our country and we're hopeful of having after November a new Republican majority in the United States Senate to lead our country in a different direction.”

    Yeah. Folks from the right said as much when they were arguing on the congressional floor over Terry Schiavo. It's the direction Republicans want to take us in and the unlimited interference in our lives that most concern me. I've never seen such a group as this new and less improved GOP that spends its entire platform telling folks what they ought to do; how they ought to think; and how to run their lives as this group has done for the past two decades now. For a party that prides itself on less government interference, they certainly are going in the opposite direction.

    August 8, 2014 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  21. ????

    @Dominican mama 4 Obama
    Seems that 'Meriku is rejecting outright crazies and choosing the more nuanced Screw You First, Country Last remaining members of the GOP.
    Hard to get excited or hopeful over this.
    Either way the rest of us are screwed.
    -----
    Are you concerned that your future welfare checks are may be a risk?

    August 8, 2014 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  22. Sniffit

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

    That's phrased extremely poorly and deliberately so. You're trying to give the impression that the Teatroll beat ZERO "establishment incumbents" this year, but that's simply not true. They did. Many. Including the House majority leader, Eric Cantor. Your "year of the establishment" narrative died long long ago. Your attempts at necromancy are pathetic.

    August 8, 2014 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  23. OBAMA - THE OPEN BORDERS PRESIDENT

    The goal is to win in November and Alexander has proven he can make that happen. One less seat to worry about and more money to send to closer races for the Senate.

    August 8, 2014 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  24. Silence DoGood

    The Tea Party is around 10% of the population and falling. They certainly don't represent the average person.
    But they advocate violence and get nasty when they lose.
    Their exit from politics will be ugly. We will see more fringe folks acting out.

    August 8, 2014 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  25. badtobone

    But Tenn also sent a clear message to Alexander. You have a pass for now from old friend s but screw up again with the democrats and your out of there.

    August 8, 2014 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
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