State Rep. Carr to challenge Alexander for U.S. Senate seat - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

State Rep. Carr to challenge Alexander for U.S. Senate seat

Joe Carr Joe Carr

More than a year from election day, Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander faces a challenge from a fellow Republican.

State Rep. Joe Carr, R-Lascassas, announced Tuesday he plans to run against the longtime senator and former governor who he says is now "out of step" with most Tennesseans.

Carr has five years experience as a state representative from Rutherford County.

At first, he wanted to turn that into a career as a congressman, but he now plans to aim for the title of senator and, in the process, take down Tennessee's longest-serving statewide politician.

Alexander has served in the U.S. Senate since 2003. He served as governor of Tennessee from 1979 to1987.

The Lascassas Republican had previously announced he was a candidate for the congressional seat held by U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, also sought by State Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville.

While campaigning across the 4th Congressional District, Carr said he was getting questions about whether he might run for Senate.

"As I traveled the district, I kept getting two questions: What can I do to help and would I change my mind and run against Lamar?" Carr said Tuesday on a Nashville radio show.

For Vanderbilt University political science professor John Geer, Carr may signal an extra choice but not necessarily a viable one.

"I think, frankly, it's pretty good news for Lamar Alexander," Geer said. "Joe Carr's a serious guy. But at the same time, he was struggling in a race with DesJarlais, wasn't raising a lot of money. And now he's basically entering a race that puts it up a whole notch."

Some perceive Carr's decision as an appeal to the far right.

But the candidate cautioned voters Tuesday not to consider him the Tea Party alternative.

It seems the party, for now, feels the same.

"It may wind up being Joe Carr. But there's a series of meetings," said Ben Cunningham, with the Nashville Tea Party. "He's a credible candidate. He has a record of winning elections and raising money. And we're certainly very pleased to see someone of his stature step into the race."

Tea Party members will decide whom to endorse in the next few weeks.

Carr will be allowed to take the money he raised for his Congressional campaign and move it to his Senate run.

Carr said he has raised about $300,000 for the congressional campaign. Tracy has reported $650,000 cash on hand through the first six months of the year while DesJarlais had $88,000.

The campaigns of DesJarlais and Tracy released statements after Carr's announcement.

"Regardless of the final slate of candidates, I plan on running solely on my independent record in Congress," said DesJarlais. "For me this race has never been about political ambitions. Rather, I am seeking another term because I believe the people of the Fourth District deserve a strong, conservative voice in Washington that will always put principle before politics."

"My decision and my campaign are not about the other candidates in the Fourth Congressional District," said Tracy. "I am confident we will win no matter who runs and I am focused on running a grass-roots, people-first campaign. The people of the Fourth District are hard-working, honest conservative folks and they deserve a strong an effective voice in Congress, which right now they do not have."

Out-of-state money will certainly play a part in Carr's race with Alexander.

When asked whether political action committees in Washington had been in touch, Carr simply smiled and said, "potentially."

He will need the help, though. Even at his campaign announcement, Carr called it a "David-and-Goliath" kind of race.

Lee Beaman, chairman and CEO of Beaman Automotive Group, will serve as Carr's state campaign chairman.

"From the beginning, several of us on the exploratory committee urged Rep. Carr to run for the U.S. Senate," said Beaman in a news release. "He led the fight to curb illegal immigration, abolish the death tax and protect the Second Amendment, and we know he'll lead from the front and change Washington."

Chip Saltsman, a former state Republican Party chairman, resigned from the Carr campaign when the decision was made to switch from the House race to the Senate race.

"I have been a longtime supporter of Senator Alexander for many reasons, and I will continue to be a strong supporter. Due to the hard work of Lamar Alexander, and because he stayed true to his conservative ideals, our state has no income tax, great roads with no debt, and an economy that is the envy of most states," Saltsman said in a statement.

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