On Tuesday, Tennessee state Representative Joe Carr (R-Lascassas) announced he would abandon his bid for the 4th Congressional District seat and instead pursue a bigger target: incumbent U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander.
Alexander, running for his third term in the Senate, is viewed as too moderate by conservative factions, including tea party leaders. Earlier this week, tea party groups announced plans to evaluate potential challengers that could take on Alexander in next year's Republican primary. Carr stepped into that role on Tuesday, pledging that he would be the conservative candidate for voters dissatisfied with Alexander's performance in office.
That dissatisfaction doesn't mean Carr's path to a nomination will be easy. Alexander is still a well-known name in Tennessee politics. A June 30 financial disclosure statement showed Sen. Alexander's campaign chest at $3.6 million, more than ten times the amount raised by Carr.
Rep. Carr said his bar for a successful campaign fund would be $5 to $6 million, and he said he may get help from national organizations. But the director of one such group, the Senate Conservatives Fund, expressed some doubts about Carr's viability.
"If Carr doesn’t catch fire and a more compelling conservative enters the race, he could be the spoiler that helps re-elect Lamar Alexander. That’s something we want to avoid," executive director Matt Hoskins told the Tennessean.
Also unclear is how much political support Carr can muster before the 2014 primary. Nashville Tea Party president Ben Cunningham told the Tennessean he wasn't jumping to endorse Carr's bid. At least two other candidates, Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett and former Williamson County GOP head Kevin Kookogey, are mulling their own bids for the Republican nomination.