East TN News
East TN News

Lamar Alexander To Step Down In January

By John M Disque


US Senate Republican leader Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn) announced last week that he will officially resign his GOP leadership post in the Senate in January 2012 to focus on the issues he cares about the most. 

The accomplishments of this man are staggering so we'll take it from the beginning. I'll try to list the highlights but there's no way to write about all his accomplishments in a single article. 

Alexander grew up in Maryville TN and was the son of a schoolteacher and a school principal. This would probably account for his undying stance on American Education and teacher wages. 

His career in politics began when he worked as a legislative assistant for Senator Howard Baker in 1967. In 1969 he worked for Bryce Harlow who was President Nixon's executive assistant and in 1970 he moved back to Tennessee to become campaign manager for Winfield Dunn who became the TN Governor in 1971. 

During his management for Winfield Dunn, some of the limelight was focused on Lamar himself and people began to talk. He chose to run for TN governor in 1974 but his opponent Ray Blanton decided to hit below the belt and began running an attack campaign with negative ads against Alexander. The ads distanced Alexander from the TN workers and exaggerated the work he did under the corruption and resignation of the Nixon administration. Unfortunately, the strategy worked. 

Ironically Blanton's time as TN governor was littered in scandal and understanding that he lost the vote of the average Tennessean he chose not to run a second term. The door was now open for Alexander, and he chose to give it another shot. This time the voters gave him the nod. 

You may remember that Alexander walked 1,000 miles across TN in his campaign for governor. This little "act of brilliance" brought a lot of media attention to his campaign while showing his extreme passion, but the end result was free airtime to express his policies and positions. The people watched, listened, smiled and knew they had their man. On January 16, 1979 he was sworn-in and became Governor of Tennessee. 

Far from finished, he ran for a second term and in 1983 and was reelected. The term would end in 1987. Being he was constitutionally ineligible to run for a third term, he stepped down and Ted McWherter became TN Governor. 

After his governorships, Alexander became the President of UT and then moved on to become the US Secretary of Education. 

Twice (in the 1996 and 2000 elections) he ran for President of the United States but was unsuccessful and dropped out before the primaries both times. After the second time, he swore he would never again run for a political office but the voice of the people can be overwhelming. 

In 2002 US Senator Fred Thompson was resigning and many people, including President Bush, persuaded Alexander to fill the position. He ran, won and became the first Tennessean to ever be elected both Governor and US Senator. 

Although he represents the Republican party, Lamar Alexander has often gone against the grain of the typical Republican. Many times during his career he was met with open criticism and scorn that usually came through the hands of the media. Nonetheless, once his heart was involved he did what he felt was best for the American people and was not afraid to take an unpopular stance regardless of any political party. 

As you may have gathered by the headline and the beginning of this article, Alexander decided to step down from his GOP Leadership position but this does not mean he's retiring from politics. He plans keep his seat in the senate and to run again for GOP leadership in 2014. In the meantime, he will be working to forge bi-partisan agreement and compromise in the Senate.

"It's not likely to happen with the existing leadership," Alexander said. "What I'm giving up is a seat at the table for more independence." 

You may not always agree with him, but there's no way to deny that he's a rare breed in today's political world. Anyway you look at it it's an unselfish and perfect decision. To do what he thought was best for the American people regardless of his own fame, position and political party has always been the one thing that made this politician stand above the rest.


Published in Knoxville Daily Sun September 26, 2011

Published in East TN News October 17, 2011

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