In an exclusive interview Monday morning with Steve Gill and Michael Patrick Leahy on The Tennessee Star Report – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 am to 8:00 am – Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) said that he will make a decision on whether to run for a fourth term in the United States Senate before the end of this year, 2018.
First elected to the United States Senate from Tennessee in 2002, the 78-year-old Alexander was re-elected in 2008 and 2014. He faced a tough Republican primary challenge in 2014 from former State Rep. Joe Carr (R-Lascassas). Alexander defeated Carr by a 49 percent to 40 percent margin in the primary, then sailed to any easy victory in the general election.
Tennessee Star Political Editor Steve Gill asked Alexander the big question about his political future towards the close of the Monday morning interview. You can hear that question and Sen. Alexander’s answer, a transcript of which appears below, beginning at the 9:00 mark in the audio file at the end of this story:
Gill: About 7:01 pm on election night everybody started turning their attention towards 2020, I’d argue it’s before that, but whether it’s the White House, whether it’s congressional races, Senate races, 2020 has already started. You’ve got Cory Gardner out in Colorado going to have a tough fight to hang onto his. You’ve got Susan Collins, those are two Republican seats that are going to have to be fought over. In Alabama, Doug Jones hopefully we can take back Alabama. There’s talk that Senator Roberts in Kansas whose eighty five may retire and create an open seat there. And folks are talking about Lamar Alexander. Are you going to run for re-election in 2020?
Alexander: Steve I haven’t decided, I’m going to decide by…
Gill: Well just between us…(Laughs) . . . When would you decide [whether you will run for re-election]? What’s your timeline for making a decision or when you will announce it?
Alexander: Before the first of the year.
Gill: Before the first of this year or next year?
Alexander: By the end of this year. I mean I need to get started if I am going to run for re-election. I don’t take that for granted at all. Every time you run for re-election you start over. Starting over means for me getting in touch with almost everybody in the state that I can. I don’t expect that I would walk across the state, but I can come pretty close to it. And if I don’t I need to get out of the way and let somebody else run.
Alexander stated that he likes and enjoys what he’s doing. He reflected upon the thirty days of the Kavanaugh hearings and how good things were happening simultaneously that were not being reported or brought to light. He re-iterated that there was a landmark opioid bill being passed, copyright laws being passed, and legislation for super computing and biomedical research.
Gill also discussed with Alexander the possibility of Senator-elect Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) joining the Judiciary Committee in the United States Senate.
Gill: You know Rick Scott has now been, I guess confirmed, he’s not yet been through the actual, I guess, final process in Florida but Republicans will now at least have a fifty two, forty eight and assuming Cindy Hyde Smith…
Alexander: Fifty three if he’s confirmed…
Gill: Well if Cindy Hyde Smith hangs on in Mississippi in about a week. First of all, does a fifty two, fifty three to forty seven majority change the Senate? It gives you a little more wiggle room.
Alexander: It does. For example, on committee that I’m chairman of, health, education, labor etc. It would give us probably a margin of two votes instead of one vote. So we lose one Republican vote or even two, if we lose one we could still report something out of the committee. So, yeah it will give us a little more of a margin on several of the committees I believe.
Gill: Well in judiciary where one vote margin was giving folks like Jeff Flake, giving folks like Lisa Markowski and others, they could block a Brett Kavanaugh. When you’ve got a little bit more room you’ve got a couple extra members.
Alexander: That’s exactly right, I mean for example it would make a big difference on the Judiciary Committee if you have a margin of two instead of one.
Gill went on to question on how you make these appointments. He noted Marsha Blackburn as being mentioned as a potential add to the Judiciary committee and noted one of the optic problems in the Kavanaugh process was that it was all older white men making the determination. The vacancies of Jeff Flake and Oren Hatch came in question in regards to how Blackburn would get selected for one of those vacancies as a freshman.
Alexander: Well fundamentally it’s seniority. And then second you’ve got to want it and a lot of Senators don’t want to be on the judiciary committee and anybody who can take a look at the Kavanaugh hearing… (Gill chuckles)
Gill: Can’t imagine why.. (Laughter)
Alexander: It’s just like a knife fight for thirty days. So literally a number of the people who Senator McConnell has asked to be on the committee including women members of the Senate have said “No thank you, I’d rather be on commerce or I’d rather talk about education, or I’d rather deal with armed services.” So one, he’ll have to ask Marsha and she’ll have to be willing to do it. I talked with her last week, it’s up to her to decide what she will do. But my guess is that Senator McConnell will be eager to invite Senator Elect Marsha Blackburn to be on the judiciary committee and in exchange for that she might say to him, “Ok Mitch, then give me another very good appointment to some other committee that I’d would really like to be on like commerce or some other committee.” So my guess is she might very well be on judiciary and some other important committee which would be good for Tennessee.
Gill and Alexander agreed that because Tennessee has Fort Campbell and other military bases here that Blackburn would be very good on the Armed Services Committee but may also end up on the Judiciary Committee as well.
Listen to the full segment:
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