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Alexander Hasn’t Won Carr Over

Incumbent Sen. Lamar Alexander came away from the Republican primary in August with a comfortable margin separating him from state Rep. Joe Carr, the challenger who received the second-most votes in the race.

Carr only captured 40.6 percent of the vote, and in a field of mostly unknown challengers — five others besides Carr — Alexander took the nomination with 49.65 percent.

But Alexander’s 331,705 vote total constituted just under half the total 668,039 cast — meaning more GOP primary voters favored someone other than Alexander than were for him.

Only 240,949 votes were cast in the Democratic primary, which was won by Gordon Ball, a Knoxville trial lawyer attorney whom Alexander paints as an ally of the Obama administration and various liberal special-interest groups that traditionally align with the Democratic Party.

Alexander is running a campaign that centers on convincing Tennessee general election voters he’ll be a dependable vote against Barack Obama’s agenda during the president’s last two years in the White House.

But Alexander has yet to win over his highest-profile critic in the Republican Party. Carr told TNReport he’s not ready to endorse Alexander — and likely won’t until the incumbent Republican comes out strongly against Common Core and promises to fight “amnesty” for undocumented immigrants.

“It’s not up to me. It’s up to Sen. Alexander,” Carr said, adding that he’s had no communication with Alexander personally since the two met at a Cracker Barrel restaurant in Rutherford County earlier this month. At that meeting, Carr said they talked about issues and he accepted Alexander’s apology for not taking Carr’s primary election-night phone calls to congratulate him on winning.

The ball’s in his court,” Carr said.

As for Alexander promising to earn a reputation as an impediment to Obama’s policies and programs going forward,  Carr told TNReport he has “no idea” what the campaign or the state Republican Party are talking about in that regard.

I will be as excited and intrigued as every other voter in Tennessee to see this strange turn of events,” said Carr, whose principle primary campaign theme was that Alexander’s been more friend than foe to Obama these last six years. 

Carr pointed to Alexander’s backing of various Obama administration initiatives and appointments as evidence he’s never really applied himself consistently or wholeheartedly to thwarting the president’s will.

The announcement last week that Attorney General Eric Holder is stepping down offered a prime example of how Alexander has often tended to earnestly award his trust to President Obama — even to the point of siding with liberal Democrats and against conservative Republicans — only to claim he regrets it later.

Alexander, who was one of 18 Republicans who joined with 55 Senate Democratic to confirm Holder in 2009, said in a statement that when it comes time for the president to pick Holder’s replacement, he hopes Obama “will nominate an attorney general this time who will faithfully apply the laws Congress has passed and not seek to impose policies the president wishes Congress had passed. The role of the top law enforcement officer in the country is to enforce the law—not to advance the president’s agenda.”

It should have been clear to Alexander during the confirmation process — and indeed it was to 21 other Republicans in the U.S. Senate — that Holder was going to be a problematic figure among conservatives, Carr suggested. Holder’s political aims, his ambitions and his performance as attorney general could have been “easily predicted and forecast by his past behaviors when he was in the Clinton administration,” Carr said.

In a strategy similar to Carr’s, Ball has pointed to Alexander’s Senate voting record as a defense against TNGOP claims that a vote for him will be a vote for Obama.

Ball is pushing Alexander to debate — a challenge Alexander has thus far dodged. Similarly, Alexander refused to share a debate stage with Carr during the GOP primary campaign.

Ball has said Alexander is doing Tennesseans a “disservice” by depriving them of a chance to see the candidates for such a powerful elected office challenge each other on matters of great national importance.

Ball, Alexander Trying to Outdistance Each Other from Obama

Depending on who you talk to, both candidates for Tennessee’s U.S. Senate seat up for grabs this year have a lot in common with Barack Obama.

Earlier this week the Tennessee Republican Party pitched out a press release painting a vote for Gordon Ball, the Democratic Party’s candidate for Senate, as a vote in favor of Obama’s “agenda,” which includes Obamacare, higher taxes, less restrictions on abortion, unions and gun control.

“Like many Democrats in Tennessee—and every personal injury lawyer I’ve come across—Ball will try to cloak himself with conservative rhetoric in order to win,” TNGOP Chairman Chris Devaney said in a news release. “But the reality is: He’ll be one more vote for Barack Obama’s agenda.”

In Devaney’s telling, Tennesseans face a straightforward choice. They can send Alexander back to Washington so he can “defend us from President Obama,” or they can put the bat in the hands of Ball, who would be “Obama’s lapdog in the Senate.”

Ball thinks Team Lamar is overplaying just how dependably Alexander can be relied upon to take on the president. He launched the You-Love-Obama accusation right back at the third-term-seeking Beltway insider.

It’s Lamar Alexander who’s earned a reputation as one of the White House’s pet senators, having “voted with President Barack Obama 62 percent of the time,” a press release from the Ball camp indicated Tuesday.

Ball noted that’d he’d be starting with a clean slate if elected. “I have voted with (the president) 0 percent of the time,” he said. And he fashions himself as more middle-of-the-road than left-of-center. Ball compared his political leanings to those of Ned McWherter and Phil Bredesen.

Ball’s strategy of distancing himself from a president with whom he shares party affiliation looks to resemble that of Alison Lundergan Grimes of Kentucky, another upstart Southern Democrat looking to upset a GOP fixture on the national political scene. Grimes is running to unseat Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

In a recent TV ad featuring her shooting clay pigeons, Grimes also took aim at McConnell’s loyalty to University of Kentucky basketball and his knowledge of basic firearms safety. She also peppered the president. “I disagree with him on guns, coal and the EPA,” she said.

Grimes was the keynote speaker this summer at the Tennessee Democratic Party’s Jackson Day Dinner. Neither Ball, nor his opponent in the Democratic primary, Terry Adams, spoke at that event.

Ball and Alexander will get a chance to go mano a mano to hash out who’s more Obama-esque next month. Both have agreed to appear at an Oct. 16 state Farm Bureau candidates’ forum at Tennessee Tech University in Cookeville.

Alexander, Ball to Appear at TN Farm Bureau Candidate Forum

Press release from the Lamar Alexander Campaign for U.S. Senate; September 17, 2014:

Lamar Alexander’s campaign for re-election today released the following statement from the senator on the Tennessee Farm Bureau candidate forum scheduled for Oct. 16:

“I have accepted an invitation from the Tennessee Farm Bureau for a candidate forum at Tennessee Tech University in Cookeville. This will be a good opportunity to remind Tennesseans that my opponent is just one more vote for Barack Obama’s agenda, and that a vote for me is a vote for a new Senate majority that will lead the country in a different and more conservative direction.”

Campaign Kicked Off to Fight EPA’s Coal-Burn Regs

Critics of new Environmental Protection Agency limits on coal-plant emissions say they fear the Obama administration is attempting to incrementally phase out coal as an energy source in America.

The Consumer Energy Alliance launched a nationwide public relations campaign last week geared toward convincing the public of coal’s utility as an “affordable and reliable” source of U.S. electricity.

At a regional conference in Nashville Sept. 25, Michael Whatley, the alliance’s executive vice president, said a “full-fledged conversation” is necessary to discuss what detrimental impacts the new rules are going to have on coal-fired power plants.

Whatley said the initial emphasis of CEA’s campaign will be to fan opposition among broad sectors of energy consumers – industry, agriculture and household users.

The regulatory effort that prompted the CEA campaign would require new large natural gas-fired turbines to be limited to 1,000 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour, and small natural gas-fired turbines to 1,100 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour.

Additionally, new coal-fired plants would be limited to 1,100 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour, according to an EPA press release on the new standards. New coal plants could also opt for a tighter limit if they choose to average emissions over multiple years, offering more operational flexibility.

Lacking more advanced emissions control technology, newer power plants produce 1,800 pounds of carbon emissions per megawatt-hour, The Tennessean recently reported.

Whatley told TNReport the EPA’s new regulations “are going to basically require that you cannot build a new coal-fired power plant unless you can capture all of the carbon emissions that come off it, and then sequester them in the ground somewhere.”

He said the the technology doesn’t yet exist to do that.

“What we’re going to see next year is another set of regulations that are going to talk about how they’re going to reduce the emissions from pre-existing plants,” Whatley said. “And unfortunately, right now, we don’t know what the impacts of that are going to look like.”

The EPA release says that the agency will reach out to state and local governments, as well as those in the industry to work to establish the new standards for carbon pollution from existing plants.

This second round of regulations would come about under a separate section of the Clean Air Act as the first set, and although the agency would establish the requirements, the states would be the ones to choose how to enforce the new rules, according to a report by The New York Times.

Dr. David Penn, the director of Middle Tennessee State University’s Business and Economic Research Center, teaches a course on environmental economics and told TNReport that he believes the benefits of restricting pollution from coal will ultimately outweigh the costs.

“It certainly is going to reduce the demand for coal, but the demand for coal … at power plants has been falling anyway as plants switch to natural gas, which is cheaper,” Penn said. “Coal is finding other markets in Europe and in the Far East. Better air quality has a cost, but the benefits typically far exceed the cost of increasing air quality. Benefits in terms of more longevity — (and) you’re sick fewer days.”

This is a view that the Tennessee Environmental Council shares.

“Anything that we do to sequester coal and all the carbon discharges, and all the other toxic pollutants that come out of those smoke stacks is good for human health, and it’s really good for our economy (because it cuts health care costs),” said Executive Director John McFadden.

The intent of the new regulations is to reduce carbon emissions for the purposes of fighting global warming and improving health by restricting the allowable amount of carbon produced by new natural gas and coal-fired power plants, according to the agency press release.

However, the EPA’s proposal, which outlines the regulations, suggests that the expected reduction in carbon emissions will be “negligible” through the year 2022.