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Andrew Lamar Alexander (born July 3, 1940) is the senior United States Senator from Tennesseemarker and Conference Chair of the Republican Party. He was previously the 45th Governor of Tennessee from 1979 to 1987, U.S. Secretary of Education from 1991 to 1993 under President George H. W. Bush and candidate for the Republican Presidential nomination in 1996 and 2000

Early and personal life

Alexander was born in Maryville, Tennesseemarker, where he was raised, to Genevra Floreine Rankin and Andrew Lamar Alexander. In high school he was elected Governor of Tennessee Boys State. Alexander graduated with a B.A. from Vanderbilt Universitymarker where he was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Sigma Chi Fraternity in 1962 and from the New York University School of Lawmarker in 1965. After graduating from law school, Alexander clerked for United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit judge John Minor Wisdom in New Orleans from 1965 to 1966.

In 1969 Alexander married Honey, who grew up in Victoria, Texasmarker. They had met during a softball game for Senate staff members; he was then a staffer for Senator Howard Baker of Tennesseemarker while she worked for Senator John Tower of Texasmarker. Together they have four children: Drew, Leslee, Kathryn, and Will.

He is also a classical and country pianist. Alexander got to put these talents on display in April 2007 when he played piano on singer Patti Page's re-recording of her 1950 hit "Tennessee Waltz." He appeared on the record at the invitation of record executive Mike Curb. Alexander and Page then performed the song live at an April 4 fundraiser for his Senatorial re-election campaign in Nashvillemarker's Schermerhorn Symphony Center..

Political career

In 1967, Alexander worked as a legislative assistant for Senator Howard Baker. While a staffer, he was briefly roommates with future U.S. Senator Trent Lott. In 1969, he worked for Bryce Harlow, President Richard Nixon's executive assistant. In 1970 he moved back to Tennessee, serving as campaign manager for Memphis dentist Winfield Dunn's successful gubernatorial bid.

Thanks to his successful tenure as Dunn's campaign manager, Alexander received the Republican nomination for governor of Tennessee in 1974. He faced Democrat Ray Blanton, a former congressman and unsuccessful 1972 Senate candidate. Blanton attacked Alexander for his service under Nixon, who had resigned in disgrace several months earlier. He also portrayed Alexander as being too distant from average Tennesseans, even though Alexander was the son of teachers. Blanton would win the election 56%-44%.

In 1974, TIME magazine named Alexander one of the 200 Faces of the Future.

In 1977, Alexander once again worked in Baker's Washington office following Baker's election as Senate Minority Leader.

Governor of Tennessee

Even though the Tennessee State Constitution had been amended in early 1978 to allow a governor to succeed himself, Blanton chose not to seek re-election, due to a number of scandals. Alexander once again ran for governor, and made a name for himself by walking across the state wearing a red and black plaid shirt. He defeated Knoxvillemarker banker Jake Butcher in the November election.

In early 1979, a furor ensued over pardons made by Blanton. Since the state constitution is somewhat vague on when a governor must be sworn in, several political leaders from both parties, including Lieutenant Governor John S. Wilder and State House Speaker Ned McWherter, arranged for Alexander to be sworn in three days earlier than the traditional inauguration day. Wilder later called the move "impeachment Tennessee-style."

Alexander made history by becoming the first Tennessee governor reelected to a second 4-year term (after the 1978 amendment, se above) by defeating Knoxville mayor Randy Tyree in the 1982 election, carrying almost 70% of Knox Countymarker. Since that time, every Tennessee Governor has been elected to consecutive terms. During his second term, he served as chairman of the National Governors Association from 1985 to 1986. After opting out of the 1984 U.S. Senate contest for the open seat of retiring Majority Leader Howard Baker, Alexander was constitutionally ineligible for a third term and stepped down from the governorship in January 1987.

After governorship

Moving with his family to Australia for a time, he would soon return to Tennessee and became the president of the University of Tennesseemarker (1988–1991), and United States Secretary of Education (1991–1993). As Education Secretary, he sparked controversy after he approved Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools (TRACS) to accredit schools despite an advisory panel that repeatedly recommended against it in 1991 and 1987. In 1993, Steve Levicoff published a book-length critical discussion of TRACS and Alexander's decision in When the TRACS Stop Short.

In 1987, he helped found Corporate Child Care Management, Inc. (now known as Bright Horizons Family Solutions Inc.), a company that via a merger is now the nation's largest provider of worksite day care. In his 2005 U.S. Senate financial disclosure report, he listed personal ownership of BFAM (Bright Horizons Family Solutions) stock valued (at that time) between $1 million and $5 million dollars.

He taught about the American character as a faculty member at Harvard Universitymarker's Kennedy School of Government.

He also made two unsuccessful runs for President of the United States, in the 1996 and 2000 election cycles. In 1996, he finished third in both the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire Primary and dropped out before the Super Tuesday primaries. After dropping out of the race, Alexander took an advisory role in the Dole/Kemp campaign. His second candidacy, in which he traveled around the U.S. in a Ford Explorer, eschewing a campaign bus or plane, lasted less than six months, being announced March 9, 1999, and withdrawn August 16, 1999 (after a poor showing in the Ames Straw Poll), both times in Nashvillemarker. An article in The New York Times during this period comments that Alexander's "bitter belief that party's nominating process is being short-circuited by big money and big media has become [his] consuming preoccupation," referring to the Republican Party.

Senate career

Despite vowing to never again return to elective office, he was nevertheless persuaded by the White Housemarker to run for the open seat of retiring Senator Fred Thompson in 2002. Seen as a moderate Republican by Tennessee standards, his candidacy was vigorously opposed by conservatives who supported Congressman Ed Bryant, who had become one of the House managers during the 1998 impeachment of President Bill Clinton. Alexander was better-funded and armed with more prominent endorsements, winning by a closer-than-expected margin over Bryant in the primary. Democrats had high hopes of recovering the seat with their candidate, Nashvillemarker Congressman Bob Clement, a member of a prominent political family. Alexander was successful in defeating Clement in the general election that year. With his election to the U.S. Senate, he became the first Tennessean to be popularly elected both governor and senator. At 62, Alexander also became the oldest elected freshman U.S. Senator from Tennessee since Democrat Lawrence D. Tyson in 1924.

Before the Iraq War began, Alexander supported sending troops to Iraq and expressed his agreement with President Bush that Iraq must be dealt with immediately. A year after the war began, Alexander stated that the Iraq War had provided "lessons" to the nation, but went on to say that American troops should not be withdrawn, saying "It would be even worse if we left before the job was done." In 2007, Alexander touted implementing the Iraq Study Group recommendations, noting that he believes Bush will be viewed as a Truman-esque figure if he implements the Group's recommendations. Alexander has, however, opposed most efforts in the Senate to bring an end to the Iraq War or reduce the number of troops in Iraq, voting, for example, against an amendment to a bill that would have required that soldiers be given minimum periods of rest before being redeployed to Iraq.

On June 25, 2009, much to the chagrin of conservatives and 2nd Amendment supporters, Lamar Alexander was one of 8 Republicans to cross the aisle and vote for confirmation of Harold Hongju Koh, a gun control advocate, as Legal Adviser to the State Department.

Again breaking ranks with Republicans and conservatives in the Senate, on July 30, 2009 Alexander announced his support for the nomination of Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor.

In 2007, a species of springtail, Cosberella lamaralexanderi, was named in his honor partially because of his support in the Senate for scientific research funding.

On July 15, 2009, Alexander voted against the health care reform bill in the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Alexander stated that he opposed the bill because he says it will result in higher state taxes, an increased federal debt, government-run health care, and Medicare cuts, and instead supports a different approach to reform.

Committee assignments

Republican leadership

In late 2006, Alexander announced that he had secured the requisite number of votes to become the Republican Party's Minority Whip in the Senate during the 110th Congress. Even though he was seen as the preferred choice of Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and the Bush Administration, he lost the election to former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott by one vote (25-24).

Alexander would get a second shot at entering his party's leadership a year later when Lott announced his intent to resign from the Senate by the end of 2007. Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona, then Chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, ran for Whip and was elected without opposition. With the Conference Chair vacant, Alexander announced that he would seek the position. He would go on to defeat Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina by a margin of 31-16.

2008 Re-election campaign

In April 2007, Alexander announced he would run for re-election to the Senate in 2008.

Alexander was favored throughout the entire campaign, due to his long history in Tennessee politics and a disorganized Democratic opposition. His rivals were former state Democratic Party Chairman Bob Tuke, who won a heated primary, and Libertarian candidate Daniel T. Lewis.

Alexander won reelection in a landslide, taking 65 percent of the vote to Tuke's 32 percent. Alexander also carried all but one of Tennessee's 95 counties; he only lost in majority-black Haywood Countymarker in western Tennessee. He won the normally Democratic strongholds of Davidsonmarker and Shelbymarker counties—home to Nashville and Memphismarker, respectively. Alexander also benefited from the coattails of John McCain's solid victory statewide in the Presidential race.

Electoral history

United States presidential election, 1996 (Republican primaries):

Republican Senate Minority Whip
  • Trent Lott (MS) - 25 (51.02%)
  • Lamar Alexander (TN) - 24 (48.98%)

Senate Republican Conference Chairman:
  • Lamar Alexander (TN) - 31 (65.96%)
  • Richard Burr (NC) - 16 (34.04%)

See also


  1. 1
  2. Lamar Alexander (1991 - 1993): Secretary of Education, Miller Center of Public Affairs, University of Virginia.
  3. Honey Alexander's Biography, U.S. Senate site
  4. 200 Faces for the Future - TIME
  5. Tennessee Encyclopedia: Leonard Ray Blanton
  6. Pardon Abuse: Deja Vu by David Boaz, Cato Institute website, March 7, 2001.
  7. Steve Levicoff, When the TRACS Stop Short: An Evaluation and Critique of the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools, (Institute on Religion and Law, 1993)
  8. "Reading, Writing, and Reform" (transcript of a news-program debate among Bob Dole, Lamar Alexander, and Albert Shanker), 22 Aug 1996
  9. "Lamar Alexander"
  10. "Alexander, After 6-Year Run, Is Short on Time and Money," Melinda Henneberger, 12 Aug 1999
  11. On Alexander swing, Cheney demands Iraqi compliance, by Brad Schrade, The Tennessean, September 27, 2002
  12. Alexander Cites Lessons Of Iraq, The Chattanoogan, February 19, 2004
  13. Alexander Touts Iraq Study Group Findings, appearance on the News Hour with Jim Lehrer, July 19, 2007
  14. Alexander champions Iraq course, by Bartholomew Sullivan, The Commercial Appeal, September 9, 2007
  15. U.S. Senate: Legislation & Records Home > Votes > Roll Call Vote
  16. Senate Roll Call Votes 111th Congress - 1st Session - Vote 213,, June 25, 2009
  17. Floor Remarks of U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) -- Nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor, Senator Lamar Alexander, July 30, 2009
  18. Committee: Health care overhaul a yes,, July 15, 2009
  19. Lamar Alexander: 'It's Not Time', Nashville Scene, July 15, 2009
  20. Our Campaigns - US President - R Primaries Race - Jul 07, 1996
  21. Our Campaigns - US Senate Assistant Minority Leader Race - Nov 15, 2006
  22. Our Campaigns - US Senate Republican Conference Chairman Race - Dec 06, 2007

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