Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.
Brian Wilson, The Tennessean
With nearly two years to go before the next general election, two-term U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander has kicked off his 2014 re-election campaign with the support of nearly every major Republican official in the state.
The muscle-flexing by the former governor and secretary of education was made in an attempt to ward off potential conservative challengers months after several GOP senators lost their seats to other Republican challengers.
"I'm one to know that you don't take any election for granted," Alexander said after speaking to the state GOP's executive committee Saturday morning. "I'm not going to walk across the state again, but I'm going to do the next best thing. I want everyone I know that I don't take their vote for granted, I'd like to continue serving and I'm going to do everything I can to earn the nomination of the Republican Party."
The Maryville senator said he hopes the early show of force is enough to convince other potential candidates to seek election at another time.
"They can run in 2014 if they want to, but anybody who does is going to have a fight on their hands," he said.
Alexander announced in Nashville on Saturday morning, that he named Congressman Jimmy Duncan, Jr., R-Knoxville, to lead his campaign as chairman. Honorary campaign co-chairs include Gov. Bill Haslam, speakers in the state House and Senate and every GOP member of the state's congressional delegation except Rep. Scott DesJarlais.
DesJarlais, R-Jasper, has faced national scrutiny after his divorce records from his first marriage were unsealed in November and revealed that the anti-abortion congressman once encouraged his former wife to undergo two abortions.
In front of a crowd where some sported the red plaid that has become an Alexander campaign trademark, Haslam reminded the executive committee of what the two-term governor has done in both in his home state and Washington.
"As a former governor, he brings a knowledge of states' issues to Washington that not enough people have," he said.
Duncan also lauded Alexander's Republican credentials during the meeting, saying the senator is more conservative than he is given credit for.
"But more important to that, he is a man who loves his country and the state of Tennessee," Duncan said.
In the Senate, Alexander has positioned himself as a pragmatist who wants to undo the operational gridlock he sees in Washington. He resigned his position as Republican Caucus chairman earlier this year to show himself independent of GOP leadership. On Saturday, he said that if the President would make cuts to federal spending and address entitlement reform, then he and fellow Republicans should "hold their nose" and vote to raise revenues as part of a debt deal.
"Our country has serious problems to solve," Alexander said in an earlier statement. "We must fix the debt and move more decisions out of Washington. We must find better ways to help Americans move from the back of the line to the front in our struggling economy. It is time to stop making speeches and to start getting results."