Joe Carr Challenges GOP Rep. Diane Black in Tennessee Primary

Former state Rep. Joe Carr speaks to the executive committee of the state Republican Party before the vote for chairman in Nashville, Tenn., on Saturday, Dec. 6, 2014.
AP Photo/Erik Schelzig

Former State Rep. Joe Carr is challenging incumbent Tennessee Sixth Congressional District Rep. Diane Black in the Republican primary. The vote will be in August.

Carr, who narrowly lost to Sen. Lamar Alexander in the 2014 Republican U.S. Senate primary in the Volunteer State, says Black is not a conservative.

The winner of that primary is expected to easily win the Congressional seat in the heavily Republican district in November’s general election.

“Millions of Republicans across the country have voted overwhelmingly to reject the business as usual ‘insider games’ in Washington. We have elected Republican majorities in the House and Senate and have seen little if any real change,” Carr said in his announcement.

“Establishment insider Diane Black has fully embraced that broken system, and I am confident that the voters of the 6th Congressional District who have supported outsiders like Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and Ben Carson with 75% of the vote in this District will unite to make a change in our congressional representation this August,” he added.

Carr appeared on the Michael Del Giorno show on WWTN radio in Nashville to kick off his campaign.

“We can’t expect any real change in Washington until we change the people we send to represent us in Washington,” Carr told Del Giorno.

The Sixth Congressional District includes 19 rural and suburban counties surrounding Nashville. In the 2014 U.S. Senate primary, Carr defeated Alexander in 12 of those counties.

First elected in 2010, Black is one of the wealthiest members of Congress. As the Atlantic reported:

According to recently disclosed financial information, Black has a net worth between $16 million and $74 million and may be the richest new member of the House of Representatives. The Center for Responsive Politics estimates that her net worth in 2009 was $49 million. . .

Much of Black’s money comes from her interest in Aegis Sciences Corporation, a Nashville forensic chemical and drug-testing laboratory that her husband, David, founded in 1986.

Carr was elected as a statewide delegate to the Republican National Convention in the March 1 Tennessee presidential primary, committed to Sen. Ted Cruz. Black’s husband, Dave Black, was appointed by the State Executive Committee as an alternate delegate committed to Sen. Marco Rubio at a contentious meeting in Nashville earlier this month.

Black may be vulnerable to Carr’s charges that she is not sufficiently conservative for the district.

In the 113th session of Congress in 2013 and 2014, she had a relatively low 60 percent rating from the conservative Heritage Action Scorecard.

One of her more controversial votes came in favor of the “CR-Omnibus budget,” championed by then-Speaker Boehner and the Republican House leadership, which gave President Obama every budget increase he requested.

Black’s Heritage Action Scorecard has improved in the current session of Congress to 80 percent.

Black hit back at Carr’s attack, defending her own voting record, and pointing out that Carr does not live in the district.

“Carr is only able to call himself an outsider because he lost most all of the races he has sought,” a spokesperson for Black told the Nashville Post. “By our count, this is the fifth different office he has sought in the last eight years.”

“While Congressman Black has pushed leadership in Congress for votes on important issues like defunding Planned Parenthood, freezing the refugee program, and budgets that balance, Carr has been looking for his next opportunity to get another taxpayer funded job,” the Black spokesperson added.

Carr responded to Black on the issue of residency in his announcement, noting that “he has lived in the Sixth District longer than Diane Black has lived in Tennessee. Black helped orchestrate the removal of Rutherford County from the 6th District boundaries for the 2012 election. Carr currently lives about 4 miles outside of the newly redrawn boundary.”

“I expect Diane to make an issue of the location of my family farm,” Carr said. “It has always been easier for Diane to attack her opponents than to defend her own record, and that is mainly because of her reliable record of supporting the Establishment elites at every turn.”

Black made headlines recently when she sponsored a bill to require that the Library of Congress continue using the phrase “illegal alien” in its cataloging system

Though Carr starts the race as an underdog, he has a loyal and extensive base of supporters around the state, including many within the Sixth District. He’s also a proven fundraiser.

For her part, Black is even better financed, and will have all the campaign funding needed to make her case.

Black is one of several GOP politicians rumored to be considering a run for Governor of Tennessee in 2018. Incumbent Governor Bill Haslam is term limited and cannot run for re-election.

The outcome of this race may turn on how well Carr will be able to tag Black as a member of the GOP establishment, and whether she will be able to deflect those attacks and persuade voters she is a true conservative.


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