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Robert Houk

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Is Lamar about to be a Tea Party victim?

June 19th, 2014 8:58 am by Robert Houk

Is Lamar about to be a Tea Party victim?

The following are just a few notes from a political pundit’s notebook:

• Does U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander have any reason to worry that what happened to U.S. House Majority Eric Cantor last week could happen to him in August? Can state Rep. Joe Carr, Lascassas, pull off a tea party victory in Tennessee like the one in Virginia’s 7th House District that shocked mainstream Republicans across the nation?

The simple answer to both is no.

Sure, there’s always an outside chance that Carr will suddenly catch fire and run the kind of race it takes to defeat a veteran campaigner like Alexander, but I don’t think he can do it. Anyone who has seen the two on the stump knows Carr is barely a Padawan, while Alexander is a full-fledged Jedi.

Alexander has $3 million in his campaign war chest, and he — unlike Cantor — knows when and how to spend it. Carr has banked $477,000 — a surprise to me. Who the heck is giving him money?

The Republican primaries in Virginia and in Mississippi, where U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran was forced into a runoff for the nomination, are certainly evidence that the tea party is not dead, but it would be a mistake to overestimate its influence. It wasn’t the tea party or even his position on immigration reform that did Cantor in. It was his arrogance that got the better of him. Sometimes those in leadership positions forget about the little folks back in their districts. Perhaps that’s why Alexander gave up his leadership post in the Senate two years ago.

• Carr does have some supporters with name recognition, including some of his tea party colleagues in the General Assembly. State Reps. Timothy Hill, R-Blountville, Tony Shipley, R-Kingsport, and Micah Van Huss, R-Jonesborough are backing Carr in the August primary.

“Sen. Alexander has betrayed Tennessee by joining President Obama and Harry Reid’s ‘War on Coal.’ The destruction of the coal industry has hurt the East Tennessee economy and our ability to pursue energy independence for America,” Shipley said in a release prepared by Carr’s campaign staff.

It would have been helpful if Shipley (or rather, Carr’s news release writer) had explained exactly how Alexander’s so-called betrayal of Big Coal has harmed the economy of East Tennessee.

• The city of Nashville has dropped out of the bidding to host the 2016 Democratic National Convention. I thought it was an odd idea to begin with. Why would Democrats want to come to the reddest of the red states to spotlight their presidential ticket? It might make sense if Tennessee was close to becoming a swing state like North Carolina or Virginia that might help sway an election, but that’s not going to happen here anytime soon.

Nashville officials said last week that instead of trying to land the DNC, which (as referenced above) would have been a long shot anyway, the city is hoping to host the National Hockey League All-Star Game. At this point, there might even be more hockey fans in Tennessee than Democrats.

Robert Houk is Opinion page editor for the Johnson City Press. He can be reached at Like him on Facebook: Follow him at

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