NASHVILLE - Republican Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey says he doesn't see state Rep. Joe Carr having much chance against U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander in next year's GOP primary.
Ramsey, the state Senate speaker from Blountville, on Wednesday recalled his own 2010 GOP gubernatorial primary race with Bill Haslam, who won in a three-man contest that included Zach Wamp of Chattanooga.
"I ran against $18 million one time. It's no fun. That's what it comes down to," Ramsey told reporters when asked about the Lascassas lawmaker's tea party-backed quest to stop Alexander from winning a third Senate term.
Asked if he was saying Carr can't win, Ramsey said, "I don't see it happening."
He added, "But, you know what, primaries are good. They are for everybody -- they keep everybody honest. ... Joe has a right to run, that's fine."
Carr said in a statement that "with all due respect to Lt. Gov. Ramsey and his ability to see things clearly, fortunately, this is another instance where the voters of Tennessee get to decide."
In 2010, Ramsey faced Haslam, a multimillionaire, who relied on a combination of personal wealth and a huge fundraising challenge to overwhelm both Ramsey and Wamp. Haslam went on to beat Democrat Mike McWherter easily in the 2010 general election.
Alexander, also a multimillionaire, reported having $3 million on hand from contributions in his last campaign disclosure and has the ability to raise much more.
Carr originally declared he was running in the 4th Congressional District GOP primary against U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, a South Pittsburg physician, who also faces state Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville. But last month, Carr abruptly switched his sights and announced he would instead oppose Alexander.
Tea party activists for months have tried to find a credible challenger to Alexander, who they say is too liberal.
On another topic Wednesday, Ramsey predicted the General Assembly will pass legislation next year allowing wine sales in supermarkets.
"I think it'll pass the Senate and I feel pretty confident it'll pass both houses in some form," he said.
Liquor store owners have beat back the legislation for years, but Ramsey said he understands the owners "are sitting down right now and trying to figure out what they can live with because they know it's going to pass."
"In the past they weren't even willing to come to the table," he said, "because they thought they have five votes on committee in the Senate or enough votes in the House to kill it and they didn't have to compromise."
The bill was ready to hit the Senate floor in this past session but suffered a fatal blow in the House when Local Government Committee Chairman Matthew Hill, who backed an earlier version, voted no.
That drew several senators, who Ramsey said had been "sitting on the fence," to get behind the legislation.
State law currently allows grocery and convenience stores to sell only beer or malt beverage products. Liquor can be sold only in package stores.
Grocery store chains have been clamoring for changes to the decades-old law, saying it will benefit consumers, not to mention their own bottom lines. But the powerful liquor store and liquor distributor lobbies have opposed the move, saying competition from grocery store chains would prove ruinous to small "mom-and-pop"-owned liquor stores.
Contact staff writer Andy Sher at asher@timesfreepresscom or 615-255-0550.