Governor Bill Haslam and U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander campaigned in Oak Ridge on Wednesday as the two-term senator fought to prevail in the federal Republican primary in Tennessee on Thursday. The duo also promoted GOP accomplishments, both in Congress and in Tennessee.
Alexander is facing off against seven candidates for one of the state’s two U.S. Senate seats. Most of the attention has been focused on the race between Alexander and state Representative Joe Carr, a Republican Tea Party challenger from Lascassas in Rutherford County.
Alexander, who is also a former Tennessee governor, didn’t mention Carr by name during a stop at Dean’s Restaurant and Bakery in Oak Ridge on Wednesday.
Instead, he focused on accomplishments such as his vote to end “perpetual amnesty,” his “A” rating from the National Rifle Association, and the possibility that Republicans could gain a majority in the U.S. Senate. He also made some promises if Democrats lose control of the Senate.
“We’ll get rid of Harry Reid’s agenda,” said Alexander, referring to the current Senate majority leader, a Democrat. “We’ll get rid of ‘Obamacare.’”
Alexander, who identified himself as a conservative, is the last Senate incumbent facing a serious challenge from the right during this year’s primaries, according to CBS News. Senator Pat Roberts, a Kansas Republican, defeated a Tea Party challenger in his primary election on Tuesday. Attempts to unseat sitting senators also failed this year in Kentucky, Mississippi, and South Carolina.
Carr, who also campaigned in East Tennessee on Wednesday, has tried to cast Alexander, 74, as out of touch with the state’s increasingly conservative electorate, according to the Associated Press.
But during Thursday’s stop in Oak Ridge, when Alexander urged a sticker-wearing crowd of supporters at Dean’s to vote for him and Haslam, the incumbent touted the accomplishments of Republicans in Congress. They have delivered, and not just rested, on jobs, taxes, and education, the senator said.
Alexander said that re-electing him will send a message to President Obama. And there is still work to do on the national debt and health care, Alexander said.
“I can make a good conservative speech, but I don’t think I’m finished,” he said.
Alexander has spent the last few weeks of the campaign on a 35-stop bus tour around the state stressing his ability to get results in a divided Senate.
The senator, who has served since 2003, had a prop during Wednesday’s stop, a pages-long student financial aid form that he argued could be mostly reduced to a postcard-sized form with two key questions about income and family size.
“This is symptomatic of the problems in Washington,” Alexander said of the FAFSA form, which he held out at arms length and let unfold to the floor.
An internal poll conducted in late July and released by the senator’s campaign in response to questions showed Alexander had a 29-point lead over Carr, 53 percent to 24 percent. The next closest candidate was George Flinn, a Memphis radiologist and radio station owner, who had 5 percent of the vote on the seven-way ballot.
Alexander has also raised and spent much more than Carr.
Haslam also has competition in the primary on Thursday and in the general election in November, but none of the candidates are expected to seriously challenge the former Knoxville mayor. Still, the governor touted the accomplishments of Republicans in Tennessee during Wednesday’s campaign stop, saying they’ve cut taxes on groceries, eliminated the death tax, and are cutting the Halls tax on seniors. Tennessee has less debt per person than any other state, and the state reserves have doubled, the governor said.
Haslam and Alexander said today’s vote could turn out to be the largest Republican primary in Tennessee’s history.