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Lamar Alexander

NASHVILLE - A conservative businessman from Franklin is telling supporters he won't challenge U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., in the 2014 GOP primary, and will instead work to help him win re-election.

Marty Lankford, president of TLC Medical, who had been exploring a bid against Alexander, said in an email sent to supporters Monday that he "considered running against Lamar Alexander ... After much prayer I have decided not to run and I have pledged my full support to Lamar."

In the last few weeks, Lankford said, Alexander met with him and his family members at his home, "and I have shared with Lamar my commitment to help him win his re-election to the U.S. Senate."

A former governor, Alexander, 72, is running for a third Senate term next year. Criticized by some Republicans as too moderate, a label Alexander rejects, the senator nonetheless is mounting a full-court press to discourage a tea party-style candidate.

Lankford is chairman of the Leaders of Tennessee, a state political action committee which on its website says is "dedicated to the advancement of conservative policy by supporting and electing conservatives to state and local offices within Tennessee."

In 2008, Lankford was the GOP nominee in the 4th Congressional District, losing to then-U.S. Rep. Lincoln Davis, D-Tenn.

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