Tea party groups seek candidate to face Alexander
The Associated Press
NASHVILLE — Tea party groups in Tennessee and national conservative organizations are looking for a primary election candidate to challenge U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander.
The Tennessee Republican is seeking a third term, but some conservatives are outraged by his vote for the immigration bill and votes to confirm some of President Barack Obama’s nominees, including Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
The Chattanooga Times Free Press reported the groups will conduct vetting sessions in Nashville, Chattanooga, Memphis, Knoxville and Johnson City.
The groups are scheduled to hear from former Williamson County GOP Chairman Kevin Kookogey, challenger Brenda Lenard and perhaps Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett.
Kookogey, head of Linchpins of Liberty, testified before Congress during an investigation of IRS targeting of political groups seeking tax exemptions.
Nashville Tea Party President Ben Cunningham expects a candidate to oppose Alexander will announce shortly.
“I think Lamar Alexander can be beat,” Cunningham said. “His voting record is clearly not the kind of voting record you would expect from most senators from Tennessee.”
The Alexander campaign points to high marks from the National Rifle Association, National Right to Life and the National Federation of Independent business in claiming a conservative stance.
The campaign said the Congressional Quarterly found Alexander, a Maryville native, voted with the majority of Republican senators 83 percent of the time in 2012.
Deputy editor Nathan Gonzales of the Washington-based, nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report said Alexander opponents can complain, but can’t win without an attractive candidate.
Gonzales notes tea party challengers have won in other Republican Senate primaries, including one that unseated Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar, but said there has to be a viable challenger.
“You can’t beat somebody with nobody,” Gonzales said.
Burchett, who said he’s happy being the mayor of Knox County, nonetheless sees Alexander’s substantial campaign funding as evidence that change could be good.
“It’s the same people, the money-first crowd, the ruling class, so to speak, in both parties,” Burchett said. “They run our state and they’re always the ones at the table. And it seems like the taxpayers are always the one on the menu.”
© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.