Speculation continues to mount across Tennessee regarding the possibility of a primary challenger to Sen. Lamar Alexander announcing a bid as early as this week.
Over the weekend, tea party groups across the state announced plans to hold a series of forums to showcase potential candidates to the senator, who is seeking a third term. The list includes forums in Nashville, Memphis, Johnson City and Knoxville, as well as an event in Chattanooga that will be hosted by the Chattanooga Tea Party on Sept. 14.
According to a Newsmax report, names floated as potential participants in the forums include Brenda Lenard, who ran and lost against Sen. Bob Corker in last year’s Republican primary; Kevin Kookogey, former chairman of the Williamson County Republican Party; and Knoxville Mayor Tim Burchett. In a Knoxville News Sentinel report, Burchett said he had no plans to participate in the first forum on Aug. 31.
Last week, several tea party groups across the state sent a letter to the senator, requesting that he retire “with dignity.” The letter chastised Alexander for exhibiting “compromise and bipartisanship” on key issues in the Senate. So far, a political action committee targeting the senator has raised only $4,200 and has kept $1,200 of that on-hand-while Alexander reported having more than $3.1 million at his last filing.
Still, well-backed outside groups have indicated openness to supporting a conservative challenger. Also last week, a political action committee called the Senate Conservatives Fund criticized the senator and expressed willingness to assist a viable primary opponent. Last year, the group spent more than $16 million on U.S. Senate races.
Adding to the mix of speculation Monday came an announcement from Ralph Bristol, a popular conservative radio host in Nashville, who sent an invitation to state media to attend his station for a “major announcement” that will be made on his show tomorrow morning at 7:05 a.m. Bristol’s statement comes days after a new Triton poll of 680 Republican voters in Tennessee was released and showed Alexander railing a “credible conservative candidate” by five points on a hypothetical primary challenge.
The Republican primary is scheduled for Aug. 7, 2014.