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  1. #1
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    Jul 2012

    Lamar Alexander under fire on immigration

    Lamar Alexander under fire on immigration

    By TARINI PARTI and BURGESS EVERETT | 7/25/13 5:23 PM EDT Updated: 7/26/13 10:02 AM EDT

    When Lamar Alexander joined 13 other Senate Republicans to vote for the Gang of Eight’s immigration bill last month, he was waving a red flag in front of the tea party.

    Attending a rally in Smyrna, Tenn., last weekend, Alexander was greeted by a crowd of about 300 conservative activists — organizers said — wearing bright red T-shirts that read “Beat Lamar” in big bold letters. They held signs that blared: “You betrayed us” and “No more RINOs. Conservatives only.”

    And to drive their point home, the activists lugged around a rhino mascot dubbed “Lamar.”

    “I didn’t hear anything they said; they were a mile away,” Alexander told POLITICO. “They were enjoying their First Amendment rights, and I was enjoying playing ‘Johnny B. Goode’ with Mike Huckabee.”

    Tea party groups were already watching Alexander given declining scores from the Club for Growth and Heritage Action, and they hope last month’s immigration vote will be a tipping point against him. It’s a test of their ability to punish GOP lawmakers for their stance on the Gang of Eight bill — especially important given Senate Republicans did not move en masse to vote for the measure, and House Republicans want nothing to do with it.

    “Unlike previous cycles, Lamar Alexander is in trouble,” said Drew Ryun, political director of the conservative Madison Project and a former Republican National Committee deputy director. “Immigration is the big issue, especially given some of the things he’s said in the past. His political doublespeak isn’t going to work this time.”

    Activists representing several local tea party groups in Tennessee have teamed up with national conservative groups such as FreedomWorks, the Madison Project and Senate Conservatives Fund to find a credible, conservative candidate who can challenge Alexander in next year’s primary.

    For now, they are still searching. They have an uphill battle against Alexander, who has $3.1 million in his campaign coffers and has locked up top officials across the state. He’s even taken to meeting with potential challengers — for iced tea — to talk them out of running.

    Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett said he’s been approached by state conservatives and is considering the bid but acknowledged that it’s going to be hard to beat the GOP “ruling class.”

    “He needs to be challenged,” Burchett said, noting that Alexander is a friend and fraternity brother. “Every political person in Tennessee has already endorsed the senator, but when you ask them about amnesty, they’re against it.”

    Alexander said he lunched with Burchett a couple weeks ago — and a potential challenge didn’t come up.
    “I didn’t discuss it with him. We talked about various Knox County issues,” Alexander said.

    Activists are also trying to persuade Kevin Kookogey, a former Williamson County GOP chairman, to challenge Alexander, a former presidential candidate, education secretary and two-term Tennessee governor. Kookogey spoke at the tea party rally last weekend, recently testified at a congressional hearing on the Internal Revenue Service scandal and has taken strong positions opposing Shariah law.

    Scorecards watched closely by Washington conservatives show the deal-making Alexander has an overall voting record more in line with moderate Democrats than the far right of the Senate. In addition to his support for an immigration bill that includes a pathway to citizenship, Alexander voted to end the filibusters for Tom Perez as labor secretary and expanding background checks for gun sales. (He then voted to uphold the filibuster of the Manchin-Toomey gun control amendment.)

    “This looks like a Democrat’s profile,” said Matt Hoskins of the Senate Conservatives Fund. “His record is very liberal — very much out of step with the views of people in his state.”

    “He just tends to vote on the side of government rather than on the side of freedom,” added Whitney Neal, director of grassroots for FreedomWorks.

    An Alexander aide pointed out his sterling ratings with the National Rifle Association and anti-abortion groups, but conservative foes are more likely to highlight his Heritage Action
    scorecard for 2013, which places him below Tennessee Rep. Jim Cooper, a noted Democratic moderate. His lifetime score with the fiscally conservative Club for Growth has plummeted from 79 percent to 68 percent since 2006, and his score for 2012 was 53 percent compared to 78 percent in 2011, his last year as the No. 3 in GOP leadership.
    Club for Growth, which played an outsize role in defeating incumbent Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) in the primary last year, is not actively involved in Tennessee yet. A spokesman for the group declined to say if it would support a challenge to Alexander, but he didn’t shut the door, either.

    Supporting a challenge to Alexander “depends on a lot of factors, not the least of which is there has to be an alternative,” said Club for Growth spokesman Barney Keller.

    Nashville Tea Party founder Ben Cunningham, who helped organize the anti-Alexander rally, said the 60 local tea party groups across the state plan to get together and hold meetings in August to coalesce around one challenger.

    “We’re not going to allow the Republican establishment to put the grass roots aside,” Cunningham said. “They have tried to bully any potential challengers because they don’t want an open debate on Lamar’s voting record. It clearly isn’t conservative.”

    But Alexander has already been preparing for the opposition.

    He’s locked up the endorsements of six of Tennessee’s seven Republican House members as well as 13 former state GOP chairman. In interviews, some of the members admitted that Alexander’s vote for the immigration bill isn’t popular in an increasingly conservative Volunteer State but said that Alexander’s long record of service overshadows being out of step on immigration policy.

    Rep. Phil Roe said that there will most likely be some saber-rattling from challengers, but he doesn’t expect they will do much more than make noise even if they raise millions. Rep. John Duncan, deemed by many to be the most conservative Tennessee congressman, said Alexander is not a creature of Washington and returns home frequently to keep the pulse of his state.

    “The majority of Tennesseans, especially a big majority of Tennessee Republicans, I believe, would have voted against the Senate immigration bill. But Lamar is a courageous man,” Duncan said. “He’s not taken nearly as many let’s say, Democratic positions, as say Lindsey Graham,” he said, referring to the South Carolina GOP senator.

    A pair of moderate retired Republicans said if Alexander draws a credible challenger, they will use their new super PAC, which has a fundraising goal of $8 million, to defend the two-term senator from a challenger seizing on his immigration vote. To former Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-Ohio) and former Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), Alexander is precisely the type of Republican they are trying to keep from getting run out of town.

    “When you run for reelection, there are certainly perilous times and perilous votes that you may cast, but I see that being very consistent with who he is as a person and senator,” Snowe said of Alexander’s immigration bill support. “Trust is a huge element. You aren’t always going to be agreed with by a majority of your state.”

    LaTourette said those calling Alexander a RINO are certainly “very loud” but also a small group. Furthermore, the Ohioan said Alexander’s position on immigration won’t be as consequential as a vote by someone from a border state, where the issue is “white hot.”

    Indeed, Alexander said he hears very little about immigration when he’s back home, and a Harper Polling survey in June suggested most Tennessee voters are more likely to support a senator like Alexander who voted for comprehensive immigration reform.

    “But that doesn’t mean someone isn’t going to pop up and call for his head on a platter,” LaTourette said.
    CORRECTION: The Smyrna, Tenn., event was a rally, not a fundraiser as originally reported.

  2. #2
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    Tennessee has two bad senators, the other being Bob Corker who is one half of the infamous Corker-Hoven amendment that was added at the last minute to help push through the Gang of Eight senate amnesty bill, and took that horrendous bill and made it horrendously horrendous. Not much is said about Corker, I suppose because he is not up for reelection until 2018 and Tennessee has no law that provides for recall elections.

    However, there are always alternatives. I have called my state representative and senator urging them to sign and circulate an open letter for Corker to resign or have the state party expel him. Of course it's a very long shot, but it's not necessary that Corker actually resign, just putting a lot of heat on him should send a warning to other politicians with delusions of omnipotence when pushing amnesty.

    If there are other Tennesseans reading this, I ask them to do what I have done. Also, remember the state and county Republican parties and the Nashville Tea Party that participated in the protest against Lamar Alexander.

    Come on Tennesseans --remember Davy Crocket, Elvis Pressley and Popcorn Sutton (our famous Tennessee Moon shiner)! Come on y'all let's stink up the joint!
    Last edited by csarbww; 07-26-2013 at 10:31 PM.

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