Carr looks to un­seat ‘lib­eral’ Alexan­der in Ten­nessee

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY RALPH Z. HAL­LOW

He’s an up­start Repub­li­can work­ing his plain-spo­ken charm in a state chock-full of tea party sup­port, ac­cus­ing his well-known es­tab­lish­ment op­po­nent of run­ning from his mod­er­ate record, ig­nor­ing his con­stituents’ wishes and sup­port­ing amnesty for il­le­gal im­mi­grants.

No, Vir­ginia, this isn’t a re­hash of col­lege pro­fes­sor David Brat’s stun­ning win over House Ma­jor­ity Leader Eric Can­tor last month.

But if 56-year-old state law­maker Joe Carr has his way, there could be a sim­i­lar out­come in his long-shot bid to un­seat one of Ten­nessee’s leg­endary politi­cians, Sen. La­mar Alexan­der, in the state’s Aug. 7 pri­mary.

For tea party en­thu­si­asts, Ten­nessee is shap­ing up to be one of the best last hopes to score a vic­tory be­fore the pri­mary sea­son draws to a close. But some of its war­riors have had a hard time shak­ing off the hang­over from the pri­mary race in neigh­bor­ing Mis­sis­sippi, where they al­most knocked off long­time Sen. Thad Cochran.

“I think the move­ment is turn­ing its fo­cus to Ten­nessee, but not fast enough be­cause this race in Mis­sis­sippi has lin­gered on so long,” said Jud­son Phillips, a Ten­nessee na­tive who cre­ated one of the coun­try’s larger tea party groups, Tea Party Na­tion.

“It’s fi­nally dawn­ing on people on our side that La­mar Alexan­der is one of the most vul­ner­a­ble lib­eral Repub­li­cans left that we can take out in the pri­mary,” Mr. Phillips said Thurs­day.

Whether or not Mr. Carr can win, he does of­fer deep per­sonal faith in God, lit­tle faith in big govern­ment and a ram­bunc­tious will­ing­ness to buck Repub­li­can Party es­tab­lish­ment lead­ers — in­gre­di­ents that have helped dish up vic­to­ries for other tea party long shots such as Ted Cruz, Mike Lee and Mr. Brat.

“I try to do ev­ery­thing through my world­view, my per­sonal re­la­tion­ship with God, and am go­ing to sur­round my­self with people who have the same world­view as I do,” Mr. Carr said in an in­ter­view with The Wash­ing­ton Times.

The Ten­nessee state rep­re­sen­ta­tive has a strong lo­cal tea party base that can help get out the vote for a pri­mary in the dead of sum­mer, when most people are dream­ing of va­ca­tions and not bal­lot boxes.

Mr. Carr also boasts a 100 per­cent Amer­i­can Con­ser­va­tive Union rat­ing, com­pared with a mod­est 60 per­cent for Mr. Alexan­der. Her­itage Ac­tion, the think tank’s ac­tivist arm, gives Mr. Alexan­der a 49 per­cent rat­ing, com­pared with 100 per­cent for Mr. Lee and 98 per­cent for Mr. Cruz. That has helped the chal­lenger por­tray Mr. Alexan­der as a RINO — Repub­li­can in name only — the moniker that in­spires tea party vot­ers to mo­bi­lize.

The im­mi­gra­tion is­sue — which Mr. Carr has re­lent­lessly used against the in­cum­bent se­na­tor — re­mains white­hot in the news me­dia this sum­mer with the cri­sis of im­mi­grant chil­dren be­ing dumped at the Mex­i­can bor­der.

“It’s what Brat de­feated Can­tor with,” Mr. Carr said.

And while Mr. Alexan­der re­mains far ahead in the polls, there are hope­ful signs for Mr. Carr. The in­cum­bent is be­low 50 per­cent in pri­mary polls, and a the­o­ret­i­cal poll for the gen­eral elec­tion shows Mr. Carr would likely win in the fall by a healthy mar­gin over the Demo­cratic can­di­date. Throw in a bunch of en­dorse­ments for Mr. Carr from fel­low state law­mak­ers, and it adds to a por­trait of vi­a­bil­ity.

Mr. Alexan­der, 73, a for­mer gover­nor and two-time Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­date, still has a for­mi­da­ble base in a deeply red state where a Demo­crat hasn’t won statewide since 2006. He also has more than a 5-1 ad­van­tage in fundrais­ing.

Mr. Carr’s goal for the fi­nal month of cam­paign­ing is to por­tray Mr. Alexan­der as too lib­eral for con­ser­va­tive Ten­nesseans.

Mr. Carr blasted anti-amnesty TV ads into homes and of­fices from Knoxville to Mem­phis last month — his first mes­sage with the mass medium since his cam­paign be­gan.

Even when poll­sters soften the term “amnesty” to “a path to ci­ti­zen­ship,” a plu­ral­ity of self-iden­ti­fied mod­er­ates and in­de­pen­dents side with the ma­jor­ity of con­ser­va­tives who say, in ef­fect, that nat­u­ral­iz­ing people in the U.S. il­le­gally is poi­son for Repub­li­can can­di­dates.

Able to claim au­thor­ship or sup­port for a se­ries of tough mea­sures against il­le­gal im­mi­grants since his ini­tial 2008 elec­tion to the Ten­nessee leg­is­la­ture, Mr. Carr drives the is­sue daily. He is con­vinced it’s the big­gest weapon against an es­tab­lish­ment in­cum­bent in mod­ern in­tra­party war­fare.

Mr. Alexan­der has not said he sup­ports amnesty, but, what’s more im­por­tant for TV ad writ­ers, he has not ex­plic­itly ruled it out ei­ther.


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