Sen. Lamar Alexander would be better-suited to retire "with dignity" than seek a third Senate term, 20 tea party and conservative groups in Tennessee said Wednesday.
In an open letter circulated by the groups, writer Matt Collins called on the senator to end his decadeslong career in Tennessee politics instead of face a potential primary foe who would lambaste his voting record. The letter, which received coverage from The Wall Street Journal, says a trend of bipartisanship on key issues from Alexander is out of place with desires of Republicans in Tennessee.
"Unfortunately, our great nation can no longer afford compromise and bipartisanship, two traits for which you have become famous," the letter reads. "America faces serious challenges and needs policymakers who will defend conservative values, not work with those who are actively undermining those values. Quite honestly, your voting record shows that you do not represent the conservative values that we hold dear, and the votes you have cast as senator are intolerable to us."
The letter makes no mention of votes by the senator on specific items of legislation, but groups seeking to draft a primary opponent against Alexander have been critical of his recent backing of the Senate immigration bill, as well as his support for the Marketplace Fairness Act—a bill that would allow for online purchases to be taxed.
Although no serious Republican candidate has declared a primary bid against the senator, the letter suggests that an announcement will happen soon.
"While no viable contender has yet emerged, it is becoming more and more probable with each passing day that one will rise to the challenge," it reads. "When a serious contender eventually does enter the race, the moment their fundraising capability makes them a viable candidate, your re-election is in serious jeopardy."
Responding to the criticism, Alexander spokesman Jim Jeffries dismissed the letter.
"Sen. Alexander is focused on being the best senator he can be," Jeffries said.
The letter did not come with an endorsement from the Chattanooga Tea Party. In an interview with Nooga.com, President Mark West said he wasn't able to endorse the letter because of other commitments but didn't hesitate to bash the senator on his voting record and express desire for him to exit the political scene in Tennessee.
"I don't think it's any secret that the Chattanooga Tea Party and most of our members are very critical of Sen. Alexander's voting record," West said. "We've been very vocal of that, especially at the Beat Lamar rally in Smyrna. We are very much supportive of the idea that he needs to be replaced, and if he chooses to retire, that would be great—but I doubt that he has any plans to do so."
West was referring to a rally held last month, which drew an estimated 300 protesters to greet Alexander as he arrived for a campaign event. West spoke at the rally and can be seen in a video of the event forecasting trouble for Alexander.
"Let me issue this warning to Tennessee senior citizen—oops, I mean senior senator," West says. "Lamar, if you're over there, truth hurts. So you better get some painkiller cause we're getting ready to serve up a dose of truth."
The group that hosted the rally calls itself Beat Lamar and is actively seeking to recruit a candidate to challenge the senator next year. But a search for the URL BeatLamar.com reveals the entity behind the protests against Alexander calls itself the Real Conservatives National Committee and is soliciting funds for its cause.
So far, the efforts have come up dry. According to the group's second-quarter filing with the Federal Election Commission, the Real Conservatives National Committee raised $4,200 during the period and ended with only $1,400 cash-on-hand.
The sum is paltry next to the $3.1 million cash-on-hand Alexander reported.
Still, outside groups are hungry to assist a candidate who may challenge the senator. Earlier this week, a political action committee called the Senate Conservatives Fund singled out Alexander and indicated they would be willing to do all they could to assist a viable primary opponent. In the most recent cycle, the SCF PAC and super PAC spent more than $16 million on Senate races.
The Republican Senate primary is scheduled for Aug. 7, 2014.