The conservative Madison Project is collaborating with local Tea Party groups looking for a Tennessean conservative to challenge Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) in the state primary over his vote in favor of the “Gang of Eight” immigration bill.
The Madison Project’s Drew Ryun said in a statement released Wednesday that the “Senate amnesty bill is one of the most destructive bills to come before the Senate in years, yet Senator Lamar Alexander betrayed conservatives and helped secure its passage.”
“Last year, Tennessee voters strongly rejected Obama’s agenda, but Lamar Alexander voted for Obama’s most important priority of his second term,” Ryun said. “The amnesty bill is the Obamacare of immigration policy, as it exacerbates the current system, creates a permanent cycle of amnesty, ties the hands of law enforcement, and grants enormous discretion to Obama’s bureaucrats.”
“Even the hollow promises of enforcement will not be implemented until 10 years after amnesty is granted,” the statement claimed.
Alexander is one of the few Republicans who voted for the bill who is up for re-election in 2014. The others are Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), one of the original Gang of Eight members, and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME).
Daniel Horowitz of the Madison Project added that the group “look[s] forward to backing a candidate who prioritizes the American taxpayer and the rule of law over the desires of special interests.”
“Whether it’s amnesty, tax increases, debt limit increases, energy subsidies, or liberal judicial nominees, Alexander has stood on the side of Democrats and special interests over the conservative values of his Tennessee constituents,” Horowitz said. “It’s time for Tennessee to have at least one senator who stands for bold colors instead of pale pastels.”
FreedomWorks, another conservative group, recently said it is trying to seek out a primary challenger to Alexander as well. “We are in the process of talking and getting feedback from the activists on the ground, but we’re watching the race closely,” FreedomWorks spokeswoman Jacqueline Bodnar said according to the Washington Examiner. “I can tell you anecdotally that there are lots of activists open to supporting a principled challenger if one comes along.”
Nonetheless, an Alexander spokesman pointed Breitbart News to a story from the Washington Examiner‘s Paul Bedard about a new poll from Vanderbilt University’s Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions that found 62 percent of self-described Tea Party activists in the state support Alexander. The poll, Bedard noted, showed more self-described Tea Partiers support Alexander than those who only self-identify as Republicans.
“Two-term Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander has pulled off a surprise for Washington-based Tea Party groups eagerly looking for a more conservative alternative to make a primary challenge in 2014: He’s already the movement’s cup of tea,” Bedard said of the Vanderbilt poll.
The Bedard story and the Vanderbilt poll were published before Alexander’s vote for the Gang of Eight bill, which is what prompted the Madison Project to publicly announce its search for a viable primary challenger to the senator. After Alexander voted for the bill, he argued his vote was a move to end “de facto amnesty.”
“It is the constitutional responsibility of Congress and the president to fix our broken immigration system. Senator Corker’s amendment dramatically strengthens border security,” Alexander said in a statement. “The bill ends de facto amnesty and creates a system of legal immigration. Now it goes to the House of Representatives to improve the legislation and finish the job.”
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) National Council president Chris Crane, who represents thousands of ICE agents who enforce America’s immigration laws in the nation’s interior, argued that the bill does not end what supporters of the Gang of Eight called de facto amnesty.
“Millions of dollars have been spent on television advertisements which feature you and call on Americans to support your bill to end the nation’s practice of de facto amnesty,” Crane wrote to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) in the hours leading up to the vote. “Yet your bill does nothing to end de facto amnesty, and only guarantees it will continue.”