In the final days of the Republican primary for one of Tennessee's seats in the U.S. Senate, Sen. Lamar Alexander and his challenger, state Rep. Joe Carr, R-Lascassas, were drumming up support in East Tennessee.
Carr criticized Alexander, suggesting that the state's senior senator hasn't gotten much done in Washington. Alexander, on the other hand, mostly stayed away from direct attacks against his opponent and defended his own record on everything from immigration to how he gets things done in a gridlocked government.
Carr was in East Ridge on Friday. He pushed hard on his signature theme, opposing what he calls amnesty for immigrants here illegally, during a rally hosted by the Beat Lamar super PAC at America's Best Value Inn on Camp Jordan Road.
"My record is strong against amnesty," Carr said, highlighting his work on the E-Verify amendment on an unemployment benefits bill passed this year in the General Assembly, an amendment he said he wrote.
Surrounded by signs reading "Restore America" and "Beat Lamar," a casually dressed audience of a few dozen people clapped as Carr attacked Alexander's two terms in the Senate.
"What has he accomplished in his 12 years?" Carr asked the crowd. "Nothing much, but now people can go fishing below the dam," he answered. He was referring to a bill Alexander pushed to let people fish on rivers below U.S Army Corps of Engineers dams.
Carr said Alexander's votes to end debate on bills that support Obamacare and his position on immigration reform, veterans health and other issues should concern conservative voters.
"I want to put a face on those people who are discouraged by the political process because Washington is more involved in perpetuating a status quo that allows those in power to remain in power," Carr said. "We need to pull the authority and power out of Washington and give it back to the states and the people."
During an appearance Saturday at Lee University in Cleveland, Tenn., Alexander responded to Carr's pro-amnesty allegations.
"In 2013, I voted to end amnesty for 11 million Americans who are illegally here," said Alexander. "I voted to double border security and I voted to create a legal immigration system. If you are opposed to that, then you're for amnesty."
The bill, which never passed the Senate, didn't grant amnesty to anyone, according to FactCheck.org, an independent watchdog group.
Alexander also brushed aside criticism he said he had received for working with people to get things done in government, and stated that with the possibility of achieving a Republican majority in the Senate, "the stakes are high."
"I'm not in the 'shut down the government' crowd, I'm in the 'take the government over' crowd and move it in a different direction," said Alexander.
Alexander listed some of his key concerns in the coming year, including the simplification of student federal financial aid paperwork, deregulation of higher education, reversing the trend toward a national school board and replacing Obamacare with something that offers consumers more freedom of choice and lower costs.
The reduction of undergraduate student loan interest rates from above 6 percent to below 4 percent is the most important initiative he has been involved with recently, he said.
"It's a big success story, because it involves $100 billion in federal loans that are made every year," said Alexander.
Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact staff writer Kendi Anderson at email@example.com or at 423-757-6592.