NASHVILLE — Republican U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander told cheering supporters Monday that he learned as governor he sometimes had to work with Democrats to get things done for Tennessee and has found it necessary sometimes in Washington to do the same.
"If I stood up before you today and said I by myself brought in the auto industry, and I by myself paid teachers more for teaching well and built the best road system, I wouldn't be telling you the truth either because I had to work with other people to do it," the two-term senator told some 150 or more supporters at his campaign headquarters here in Nashville.
Alexander, who's come under criticism from his tea party-supported GOP primary opponent Joe Carr for not taking a hard enough line, said, "I respect the fact that those of us who are elected are expected not to just make a speech but get results."
"I've tried to do the same thing in Washington, D.C.," Alexander said. "We changed a law to make medicine safer. We changed a law to make student loans less expensive for students."
But he said in the Democratic-run Senate, "I couldn't have done that by myself. I had to work with other people to do it. Some people just want to make a speech. I want to get a result. I'm not in the shut down the government crowd; I'm in the take over the government crowd ... take it in a more conservative direction."
Across the street, some 40 to 50 supporters of Carr marched back and forth on a sidewalk and disagreed.
Nashville Tea Party President Ben Cunningham scoffed at the Alexander supporters, saying, "they have to drink the Kool-Aid. We're here to debate the issues. ... Lamar Alexander is not voting like a Republican from a deeply 'red state' such as Tennessee."
Many of those opposing Alexander carried signs accusing Alexander of having supported "amnesty" by voting in 2013 for an immigration overhaul. The issue is heating up over the current border crisis involving thousands of children entering the U.S. from Central America.
Alexander has said the 2013 bill first would have beefed up U.S. border enforcement. The 11 million illegal immigrants already in the U.S. have "de facto" amnesty, he has said, and the bill while granting them legal status to stay would have put them at the "back of the line" for years in terms of getting a chance for citizenship.
Meanwhile, Washington-based Politico reported Monday that Alaska business filings show Sarah Palin and Carr, whom Palin endorsed last week, both have a tie to Nashville millionaire investor Andrew Miller, a Carr supporter.
Miller and Palin's husband, Todd Palin, are among the owners of Rainbow Bay Resorts LLC, which operates what its website calls a "luxurious rustic fishing lodge" on Southwest Alaska's Bristol Bay watershed.
Filings with Alaska's Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development show Miller and Palin have 22.5 percent interests in the business.
Miller charged the "Alexander campaign team is apparently trying to sell a story that Sarah Palin's endorsement of Joe Carr is related to my personal ownership of an interest in an Alaskan fishing lodge."
Miller said "there are numerous investors in that lodge and the investment by the Palin's [sic] and I were made over a year ago, long before Joe Carr even thought about entering the Senate race against Lamar.
"The idea that the investment has anything to do with the Palin endorsement is ludicrous and insulting."
Sarah Palin's endorsement of Carr "was entirely in keeping with the conservative, tea party, Constitutional ideology that motivates her to support candidates who reflect those values."
Miller generated headlines recently after the Federal Election Commission questioned whether a company Miller owned, Life Watch Pharmacy LLC, made a $9,564 corporate contribution to Carr after Miller had already hit the $5,200 limit on what he could personally contribute to Carr.
Carr said the $9,564was interest on a $200,000 loan his campaign made to Life Watch, a transaction one expert has called highly unusual.
Miller is also spearheading a major independent expenditure effort in the U.S. Senate race with most of the funds attacking Alexander. Also running in the race is Memphis physician and businessman George Flinn.
Contact staff writer Andy Sher at email@example.com or 615-255-0550.
Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...