Lamar Alexander, a two-term Republican incumbent, said Thursday that he’s running for a third stint in the U.S. Senate because he’s excited by the prospect of the GOP regaining full control of Congress.
If Republicans win a majority in the Senate, which political analysts generally agree is looking likely, then Alexander’s in line to become chairman of a powerful legislative committee.
The temptation appears to have outweighed any sense of commitment Alexander feels toward honoring one of the dictates of his famous — at least in Tennessee political circles — Little Plaid Book, a tract he published in 1998 that contains “rules, reminders and lessons about running for office and making a difference.”
“Rule 297” of the Little Plaid Book states, “Serve two terms and get out.”
Like Sen. Alexander’s opponent in the GOP primary, state Rep. Joe Carr, Democrat Gordon Ball has seized upon the evident transgression of one of his own personal canons of political conduct as evidence that Alexander’s words, deeds and principles don’t necessarily align.
But at a candidates’ forum outside Cookeville Thursday, which was sponsored by the state Farm Bureau, it was Alexander who raised the Little Plaid Book term-limits issue right out of the gate in his opening remarks. Alexander said that with respect to retiring after his 12th year in the Senate, he had “thought about doing that,” but the allure of a new term in the majority won out.
“I thought about Senator (Howard) Baker, and how he ran for a third term as majority leader,” Alexander said. “I watched him walk across the aisle with the Reagan tax cut, and I saw what he did for the country.”
Alexander said the havoc wreaked upon America the past six years under Democrats like President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada is such that he feels compelled to try and stick around another six years to try and undo it.
“Our country is in trouble, and I am running for a third term because I believe I have a chance to be part of a new Republican majority in the Senate, and I will be in a position to help reverse the Obama agenda on health care, on education, on labor and on energy,” said Alexander. He added that Ball would simply be “one more vote for Obama.”
Ball shot back later at Alexander not just for failing to abide by his own code, but also for refusing to support term limits.
“Go to his little red book and read what he says — ‘serve two terms and get out’,” Ball said. “Those were his words, not mine. I believe in term limits. If Sen. Alexander had believed in term limits he would have introduced a bill and we might have term limits by now.”
Ball also argued that what’s ailing America right now is the current crew of Beltway insiders on both sides of the partisan aisle — and Alexander, he said, is one of them.
“If you want to change things in Washington, you’ve got to change the people in Washington,” he said. “We’ve got to change Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid, and Mitch McConnell, and Lamar Alexander — career politicians who have made millions of dollars while they’re in office through deals with their buddies, and who will makes millions of dollars when they leave office, by lobbying.”
Alex Harris contributed to this story.