Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee handily beat state Rep. Joe Carr in Thursday’s marquee primary battle, ending the tea party’s last chance during the 2014 midterms to pick off an incumbent Republican establishment senator.
With 20.4% of precincts reporting, the Associated Press called the race for Alexander, who is seeking a third Senate term. He garnered 52.4% of the vote compared to Carr who earned 37.4%.
The win for the 74-year-old incumbent is being seen as another big victory for the Republican establishment. In this year’s slew of Senate Republican primaries, the tea party has repeatedly tried — and failed — to oust incumbent mainstream conservatives, including Mitch McConnell in Kentucky, Lindsey Graham in South Carolina, Thad Cochran in Mississippi, John Cornyn in Texas and Pat Roberts in Kansas.
It’s also a triumph for the GOP establishment since many believe tea party candidates wouldn’t fare well in the general election. Republicans need to gain six seats to control the upper chamber of Congress in 2015.
Alexander’s victory marks the first time since 2008 that all incumbent GOP senators won their re-nomination bids.
Carr’s main line of attack on Alexander, a former Tennessee governor, has focused on the senator’s vote in favor of the Senate’s comprehensive immigration overhaul, which has been stalled in the GOP-controlled House. Carr, who was endorsed by conservative radio host Laura Ingraham and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, has argued the bill amounts to amnesty for undocumented immigrants.
Alexander will now face one of four Democrats who are vying for the party’s nomination in November’s general election, although the Senate seat is expected to remain in control of the Republicans.