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Tea Party challenger tries to unseat Tenn. GOP chairman

Tennessee state Rep. Joe Carr (R), who unsuccessfully challenged Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) in the GOP primary this year, is again making waves in the Volunteer State by challenging another Republican incumbent. 

{mosads}On Tuesday, Carr announced that he’ll try to unseat Tennessee Republican Party Chairman, Chris Devaney, in the state party’s Dec. 6 election.

Carr told The Hill that his better-than-expected showing in the primary provoked members of the State Executive Committee, who elect the chairman, to push him to challenge Devaney.

In the primary election, Alexander took 50 percent to Carr’s 41 percent, but the conservative challenger won a number of counties outright — including the incumbent’s home county — and picked up the endorsement of conservative icons Laura Ingraham and Sarah Palin. 

Still, Alexander coasted to reelection, crushing his Democratic opponent 62 percent to 32 percent in the general, even as Carr declined to endorse him. 

Carr said that despite the GOP stranglehold on power in Tennessee’s House and Senate, that many in the party are frustrated by growing divisions between conservatives in the state and elected Republican officials. 

“I want to help bring the Republican Party back together by ensuring that the State Executive Committee is not just a rubber stamp for a few but actually fulfills its obligation as the governing body of the Republican Party,” Carr said in a release.

Devaney said he is absolutely seeking reelection to a third term and seemed puzzled by Carr’s challenge, ticking off a list of successes the party has had in Tennessee under his leadership.

“We’ve been focused on is winning elections, raising money and building grassroots at local levels…we’ve had first, majorities in the General Assembly, then supermajorities in the General Assembly, flipped the Congressional delegation, elected more local Republicans than we’ve ever had…we’ve put the party on firm financial footing and raised historic amounts of money,” he said. 

“I’m not sure why [Carr’s] running other than for self-promotion and selfish reasons,” the GOP chairman jabbed.  

Devaney said he already had enough hard commitments from executive committee members to secure reelection, and a Republican source with knowledge of the process confirmed that to The Hill. Devaney also dismissed the notion that there was a divide between conservatives and elected Republican officials in the state. 

“Carr said he’s running to unify the party, but quite frankly we had historic election here again,” Devaney said. “We’re one of only three states to increase our supermajority, Lamar [Alexander] won 62 percent of vote and lost only one county, and [Gov. Bill] Haslam won every county. We’ve won more local races than we’ve ever won and we’re as unified as we’ve ever been.”

“Mr. Carr is actually the guy being divisive in trying to create issues where there are none,” he continued. “The fact that he would run for U.S. Senate, lose, and then did not endorse the Republican nominee – that’s something that’s divisive.”

Alexander is backing Devaney, and touted the Republican Party’s growth in Tennessee under the chairman’s leadership.

“It’s the prerogative of the state executive committee members to elect the chairman. I’m delighted that Chris Devaney is willing to be a candidate,” Alexander said in a statement. “Under his leadership the party has grown larger, more successful and more conservative.” 

In a phone interview, Carr took issue with the characterization that he’s a Tea Party candidate looking to stir things up, but his challenge is clearly a swipe at the establishment.

“During my primary run for the U.S. Senate, I met and spoke to thousands of Republicans and conservatives across the state, who are frustrated that their Republican Party does not listen to them,” he said in a release. “They want the same accountability, transparency and integrity out of their Party that they demand from their local, state and federal government. My primary goal is to unify the Tennessee Republican Party around those shared principles that define who we are.”

Carr is running on limiting the power of the position he seeks – he says the State Executive Committee should be the governing body of the Tennessee Republican Party, not the chairman, and he wants to impose term limits on the chairmanship.

 He said he’s friends with Devaney but didn’t give the current chairman a heads up about his plans. 

“Chris is a friend of mine, I’ve known him for years,” Carr told The Hill. “He may not understand, but this isn’t against Chris at all and I expect to remain friends with him. This is about unifying the party.”



Tags Chris Devaney Joe Carr Lamar Alexander Lamar Alexander Tea party Tennessee
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