Alexander gets GOP primary challenger

Tennessee state Rep. Joe Carr (R) announced Tuesday that he will challenge Sen. Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderDemocrats block energy spending bill over Iran amendment Overnight Finance: Puerto Rico pressure builds; Big tariff vote Wednesday Senate votes to increase wind energy funding MORE (Tenn.) in the Republican primary.

On local radio, Carr said he was running because Alexander was "the most liberal" member of the state's GOP delegation. 

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Carr had been focused on running for the House in 2014 against embattled Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.) before switching his focus to Alexander.

Carr said that while he was in a "genuine position" to defeat DesJarlais, many supporters had urged him to challenge Alexander instead.

Conservatives have long warned of a coming challenge to Alexander, but Carr is the first to enter the race. 

A coalition of 20 Tennessee Tea Party and conservative groups published an open letter last week urging Alexander to “retire with dignity” rather than seek a third term.

"Unfortunately, our great nation can no longer afford compromise and bipartisanship, two traits for which you have become famous,” the letter read.

The coalition criticized Alexander for his willingness to work with "those who are actively undermining [conservative] values."

Alexander responded to the letter in a Tuesday editorial in the Tennessean defending his record in the Senate.

"I appreciate the suggestion, but if the people of Tennessee will allow it, I’d rather continue to serve — hopefully, with dignity," he wrote.

In the op-ed, Alexander touts his work as governor of the state, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee's (R ) support and his efforts to protect fishing rights and keep student loan rates low, among others.

Alexander is only the latest prominent GOP senator to face a conservative primary challenge. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellRyan fans GOP civil war over Donald Trump Third-party push gaining steam Missouri Republican: Trump has not earned my vote MORE (Ky.) and Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamStoddard: Can Trump close the deal with the GOP? Dem senator: Trump would leak classified information Never Trump voices face tough decision MORE (S.C.) are also facing primary foes.

According to The Tennessean, other potential challengers to the Tennessee senator include Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett and former Williamson County Chairman Kevin Kookogey. Local activists will vet potential challengers next month.

Updated at 2 p.m. 

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