Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander Battling The Fault Lines
For many in Tennessee, it would appear that the time has come for Senator Lamar Alexander and his constituency to go their separate ways. There is grave concern that his stance as a moderate has drifted much too far to the left and that his voting record no longer reflects the wishes of his base. Some might argue that he, after all, represents all Americans; but others would argue that he needs to dance with the ones who brought him. In any case, it has become increasingly apparent that the developing chasm in Senator Alexander’s relationship with his fellow Tennesseans is becoming deeper and wider with each passing day.
On Senator Alexander’s re-election Facebook page the anger and frustration is palatable. His site has offered, “Like if you agree we need to redouble our efforts to fix our country’s debt.” As of this posting, there have been almost 2,500 replies, overwhelmingly negative in nature and with some downright insulting. This writer reviewed over 500 posts and out of that number, only 2 were positive. The remainders were along the lines of this comment made by a Mr. Harwood, who wrote, “doubling our efforts to replace you Liberal Lamar.” Many were critical of his voting record and the fact that he had agreed to the continuing resolution, which has raised the debt limit and added billions to our already staggering debt. He was also accused of having betrayed the people of Tennessee by too oft voting in agreement with liberals. There were many who were disappointed that Senator Alexander was not willing to join Senators Cruz and Senator Mike Lee in their effort to defund the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare).
Criticism of Senator Alexander’s voting record is not limited to the local level. The Senator is also receiving criticism from the Senate Conservative PAC, which was founded by former Senator (and now president of the Heritage Foundation) Jim Demint of South Carolina. The PAC advocates conservative values and has recently played an important part in securing funding and support in launching conservatives in the U.S. Senate. Although Senator DeMint is no longer affiliated with the PAC, it is evident that he still shares their prospective on the Republican leadership in Congress. After a recent town hall meeting DeMint told NPR, “I think (President Obama) knows that Republicans are afraid, and if they are, they need to be replaced.”
The Senate Conservative PAC has publically criticized Senator Alexander after it was revealed in e-mails obtained by WTVF News Channel 5 of Nashville that Alexander’s campaign staff had been involved in timing and funding for an $44,000 exhibit by The Tennessee Museum which highlighted the accomplishments of Senator Alexander during his tenure as governor of Tennessee and the fact that he was sworn in 3 days early in order to halt the abuses of the scandal-plagued governorship of Ray Blanton. The exhibit was scheduled for toll out in 2014. Senator Alexander had been instrumental in obtaining earmark funding for the museum in the amount of $400,000 in 2009. Approximately $100,000 remains unspent. The museum has adamantly denied that there is any relationship between the two findings, but once the information became public, the roll out was suddenly postponed until 2015.
According the Matt Hoskins of the Senate Conservative PAC, “Senator Alexander’s unwillingness to ban earmarks is another reason why Republicans in Tennessee deserve a chance to vote for a true conservative next year.”
Even though the majority of Republicans in Congress now oppose earmarks, Senator Alexander continues to support the pork-ridden practice and this past year voted against a permanent ban on earmarks.
Despite his proclaiming in an interview with Politico that “I’m running a Colin Powell military operation, which is, assemble an overwhelming force, focus on a single target, and have the stomach to see it all the way through to the end.” The Senator is acquiring a field of challengers for the Republican nomination to run for his seat in 2014.
As of this date, the strongest contender is Tennessee state representative Joe Carr. Carr is a Murfreesboro business consultant who recently abandoned his challenge to Congressman Scott DesJarlais, who has come under attack for his previous marital infidelities, to pursue the 2014 Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate. This change is attributed to the fact that he considers the Senator Alexander to be “the most liberal member of the delegation from Tennessee.”
In a recent interview Carr admitted that it would probably take more than 5 million dollars to defeat Alexander. He is reported to have around $250,000 on hand from his previous race for the Tennessee House.
According to a survey published in August by the Guardian and conducted by Triton Polling it is predicted that Alexander would lose to a “credible conservative” by 4 points. What would constitute or define a credible conservative is still debatable but with his current voting record there is little doubt that Alexander could be in for a battle of monumental proportion if enough conservative voters align themselves with the other side.
Senator Alexander is undeniably one of Tennessee’s most seasoned politicians, having served as governor for two terms, he also ran for president on two occasions, served as secretary of education under President George H.W. Bush and was president of the University of Tennessee. However, it is his gradual lean to the left that has raised the red flag in many conservative circles. The seven Republican members of the US House of Representatives voted no on the recent continuing resolution, which resulted in the continued funding of the Affordable Care Act, had 3 billion in pork for Kentucky, Senator Mitch McConnell’s home state, compliments of Senators Alexander and Feinstein, and lastly it raised the national debt limit. The only members of Tennessee Republican delegation to vote yes were Senators Alexander and Corker.
This “yes” vote may prove to be very telling as to the remaining strength of the relationship between Senator Alexander and the voters back home in Tennessee. If the comments on his Facebook page are any indication of public opinion, to put it in military terms, this vote could conceivably be the shot heard round Tennessee, that will lead to a salvo of unfriendly fire in 2014, which could tank Senator Alexander’s bid for re-election and propel a new derriere right into his former Senate seat.