NASHVILLE - Republican Kevin Kookogey said today that after spending months preparing to become the Tea Party activists' choice to oppose U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., he is suspending plans to enter the race.
The former Williams County Republican Party chairman said his plans went awry when state Rep. Joe Carr, R-Lascassas, entered the race nearly two weeks ago.
Kookogey, who was preparing to formally announce his candidacy Wednesday, said he decided to withdraw over the weekend out of concerns tea party and other staunch conservative groups would be divided.
"I spent most of my summer preparing to run against Lamar Alexander and was putting together the pieces that prudence would dictate are necessary to take on the monumental task of unseating a giant of Tennessee politics like Lamar Alexander," the former Williamson County GOP chairman said in an email to a Times Free Press reporter.
But, the attorney said, when Carr "entered the race a few weeks before our announcement" it "complicated matters."
Carr on Aug. 19 announced he was shifting from running for the GOP's 4th Congressional District primary next year to challenging Alexander, whom Tea Party activists want to defeat in his quest for a third term.
Carr has attracted support from a number of tea party activists and drew endorsements from two Middle Tennessee-based conservative talk radio show hosts, Ralph Bristol and Michael DelGiorno.
"Initially, we determined to stay on course and announce as planned after Labor Day, but we became concerned that the tea party coalition would be divided if I continued with my plans," Kookogey said in an email to a reporter. "As such, we have suspended our plans to announce."
In an earlier email sent Monday, Michael Patrick Leahy, co-founder of Beat Lamar, said Kookogey had written him an email following a Tea Party-sponsored forum on Saturday featuring Kookogey and Carr. The forums are aimed to "vetting" would-be candidates and settling on one that tea party groups can coalesce around.
Kookogey said in his email to Leahy that as an "unannounced candidate" he had "decided to withdraw from remainder of the scheduled events, let my attendance confuse your process."
Contact staff writer Andy Sher at firstname.lastname@example.org or 615-255-0550.