Lamar Alexander, a two-term incumbent and former Volunteer State governor, has cruised into a third term as Tennessee’s senior U.S. Senator.
And with the GOP taking over the U.S. Senate, the Maryville Republican will likely be the chairman of an influential Senate committee starting in 2015.
Alexander took victory with about 62 percent of the vote, according to unofficial Tennessee election results late Tuesday. His Democratic opponent, Knoxville attorney Gordon Ball, finished with 32 percent. Of the 10 minor party candidates, the next closest to Ball was Constitution Party candidate Joe Wilmoth, with 2.6 percent of the vote.
In the weeks running up the election, polls consistently showed Alexander with a double-digit lead over his opponent — including even a poll commissioned by Ball. But this was still likely Alexander’s most expensive campaign, with the Tennessean reporting that the long-time politician pumped $8 million into his re-election effort, almost twice the cost for his seat six years ago.
“I ran for re-election to be part of a new majority in the Senate that will fix our broken system, get the right things done, and begin to move our country in a new direction,” Alexander said in his victory speech. “I’ll do this in a way Tennesseans know well—to work with others to get results. Tennesseans want a senator who knows how to get things done, not just make a speech.”
Alexander won the GOP Primary in August with the support of less than half the Republican Party, beating Tea Party-backed challenger state Rep. Joe Carr.
After squeezing out a plurality win in the primary, Alexander came out of the gate attacking Ball, who portrayed himself a conservative Democrat. Alexander and the Tennessee Republican Party portrayed Ball as “another vote for Obama.”
Ball, looking for support from disgruntled Tea Party Republicans, targeted Alexander’s positions on immigration, term limits and Common Core. Ball also accused the incumbent of being more accommodating to the Obama administration the he likes to let on.
Alexander said in his speech after winning that he’d received a call of congratulations from Ball earlier Tuesday night. Alexander said Ball ran “a strong campaign.”
The Ball Campaign did not immediately release a concession statement late Tuesday night.
Alexander — who at a final press conference prior to election day said he wasn’t sure if 2014 would be his last race or not — is in line to chair the powerful Health Education Labor and Pensions committee now that Republicans appear to have won the six seats they needed to control of the U.S. Senate. He would also be in line to chair the appropriations committee on energy that oversees “funding for facilities such as Oak Ridge National Laboratory,” according to a press release.
An Alexander spokesman told TNReport in October that “Sen. Alexander wants to focus most immediately on three issues: repairing the damage done by Obamacare, fixing the No Child Left Behind law, which has been overdue for reauthorization since 2008, and reauthorizing the Higher Education Act.”