Republican U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander says he will not seek re-election in 2020. Sen. Alexander says he is grateful for being elected to serve as both Tennessee Governor and U.S. Senator, but it’s now time for someone else to have that privilege.
The Maryville, TN native is the only Tennessean to serve as Governor and U.S. Senator and has served in the public office for nearly 25 years.
Senator Alexander was at the State Capitol on Monday for an event, but did not mention his decision until that afternoon.
“Actually, I decided this in August when I was fishing in Canada,” said Senator Alexander.
No one else knew or they kept it quiet – which included President Donald Trump, who learned on Sunday night that Alexander would not seek re-election to the U.S. Senate.
“Well, let’s talk about you serving another 20 years’ and I said, Mr. President, I am going to announce tomorrow I am not running and he said ‘why would you do that?’ and we talked about it,” said Alexander.
The senator in his formal statement said:
“I will not be a candidate for re-election to the United States Senate in 2020. The people of Tennessee have been very generous, electing me to serve more combined years as Governor and Senator than anyone else from our state. I am deeply grateful, but now it is time for someone else to have that privilege. I have gotten up every day thinking that I could help make our state and country a little better, and gone to bed most nights thinking that I have. I will continue to serve with that same spirit during the remaining two years of my term.”
He served as governor from 1979 until 1987. During his tenure, he helped to bring the automotive industry to the state. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2002 and thereafter re-elected in 2008 and 2014. He had two unsuccessful attempts at the Republican nomination for President in 1996 and 2000. And in between being governor and his Presidential run, Alexander served as U.S. Education Secretary and the University of Tennessee President.
“I wanted to keep it to myself to make sure it’s the right decision and I have decided that it is. It’s somebody else’s turn. I get up every day thinking I can do some good for the country and go to bed at night thinking that I have, and I will continue doing that for the next two years, but this is the right decision for me and I think for Tennessee,” said Alexander.
Fellow Senator, Bob Corker, released this statement today about Alexander’s decision:
“One of the highlights of my time in the Senate has been working with Lamar Alexander. I often tell him he is the legislator of the decade because of the effective way he has worked across the aisle to pass legislation that directly affects the lives of so many throughout our state and around the country. As one of the finest statesmen our state has ever seen, Lamar will leave behind a remarkable legacy. I know he will press through the next two years with great vigor, and I look forward to all he will accomplish on behalf of Tennesseans as he completes his service in Washington. I thank Lamar for his friendship and am excited for Honey and him as they begin to think about their next chapter together.”
Governor Bill Haslam made the following statement about Senator Alexander’s decision:
“It is almost impossible to measure the impact of Lamar Alexander’s commitment to Tennessee. His time as governor paved the way for the economic position we enjoy today as a leading state for business, and his educational reforms were ahead of his time. As a senator, he has distinguished himself as a national leader, while always reminding everyone that our founders designed our government for most of the power to be delegated to the states. No one has served our state longer as a governor and senator, and few, if any, have served it better than Lamar.”
“Sen. Lamar Alexander has faithfully served Tennesseans at the state and federal level for decades. A seventh-generation Tennessean and principled conservative, our state benefited from his thoughtful leadership. I am thankful for Lamar’s friendship and wish him the best,” said Tennessee Governor-elect Bill Lee.
Alexander’s announcement leaves an open 2020 race after a 2018 election in which Republican Sen. Bob Corker said he declined to run again.
Republican Senator-elect Marsha Blackburn won an expensive race against former Democratic Governor Phil Bredesen.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.