Ball Targets Carr's Tea Party Supporters

Wednesday, September 17, 2014, Vol. 129, No. 181

Gordon Ball, the Democratic challenger to Republican U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, is basing his uphill challenge of Alexander on his specific definition of being a moderate Democrat and where that intersects with tea party followers.

“I’ve said from day one I’m against Common Core ... and I’m against amnesty.”

–Gordon Ball
U.S. Senate Democratic candidate

Ball hopes to get tea party followers who backed state Rep. Joe Carr in the Republican primary this past August to vote for him in the November statewide general election.

“I’ve said from day one I’m against Common Core … and I’m against amnesty,” Ball said Friday, Sept. 12, during a stop in Memphis, referring to the statewide education standards used in Tennessee and most of the other 49 states and immigration reform. “That’s what Joe Carr beat Lamar Alexander over the head with.”

Carr lost to Alexander but Ball sees enough common ground that he could make inroads with those voters.

“Think about it. He won Lamar’s home county and he won Sevier County and Loudon County and 27 other counties. Joe Carr got 40 percent of the vote,” Ball said. “That will be the big question. … Will those people who voted against Lamar Alexander vote for a moderate Democrat who shares their views – but I’ve got a ‘D’ in front of my name?”

Meanwhile, Tennessee Republican leaders are responding with a new ad and website linking Ball to President Barack Obama.

Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney said Monday in a written statement that Ball is trying to “cloak himself with conservative rhetoric in order to win.”

“He’ll be one more vote for Barack Obama’s agenda,” Devaney continued. “His commitment to Obama Care and the fact he would help President Obama impose more job-destroying taxes and regulations.”

Devaney also termed Ball a “liberal personal injury lawyer.”

The criticism comes after Ball was criticized in the August Democratic primary by rival Democrat Terry Adams for not being Democratic enough and his past support of Republican candidates including Bill Haslam during Haslam’s first bid for governor in 2010.

Adams has since endorsed Ball in the general election, something Ball notes Carr has not done for Alexander.

And Ball said the criticism from Adams made him a better candidate.

“He made me a more seasoned competitor,” Ball said. “Terry started eight months before I did and he had the party machinery pretty much locked up. In fact, they sent out an email endorsing him. I know because I got one.”

Adams and Ball, both Knoxville attorneys, spent a lot of time mining the Democratic base in Shelby and Davidson counties.

And those two counties remain a part of Ball’s general election strategy with a venture into the counties Carr carried in the August primary.

Carr was the choice of tea party forces who interviewed several challengers to Alexander under a “Beat Lamar” banner before the choice was made.

Ball said his opposition to amnesty for immigrants already in the country illegally should appeal to those voters.

“It’s sort of like somebody breaking into your house and then you giving them a cookie. I believe in the rule of law. We’ve got 12 million undocumented people in this country that we can’t send home,” he said. “We need to find those people, register them, make them pay taxes and put them at the back of the line if they want to be a citizen and get in line the way you are supposed to get in line.”

Alexander voted for an immigration reform bill in June 2013 that originated in the Senate among Republican and Democratic senators and passed there but ultimately never became law.

He argued it fixed a “broken immigration system” and that the Congress had a responsibility to do that. Alexander also touted the increase of 20,000 border patrol agents under the bill and the construction of 700 miles of upgraded or new fencing as well as new security technology used in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“The bill ends de facto amnesty and creates a system of legal immigration,” Alexander said in the aftermath of his vote.

The vote was the main thrust of Carr’s campaign while Alexander emphasized his opposition to the Affordable Care Act, an issue some political analysts believe had more resonance with Tennessee voters than immigration policy.