Rep. Joe Carr is switching gears.
Insiders to state politics predicted the move Monday, but on Tuesday morning, the state representative from Lascassas made it official—he will exit the 4th Congressional District Republican primary and enter the 2014 race for U.S. Senate, taking on Sen. Lamar Alexander.
Carr made his announcement on Nashville radio host Ralph Bristol's show. The candidate said he had decided to change races after "hundreds of people" had contacted him in recent weeks to suggest he run against Alexander, who is seeking a third Senate term.
"We're taking on a goliath; we know we are," Carr said.
Carr's announcement is significant on two fronts—it turns the 4th District GOP primary into a two-man race, and it marks the first primary challenge for Alexander since the Republican senator's first campaign for the Senate seat in 2002. Carr has already raised $275,000 for his congressional campaign—a total he said he expects to increase in coming months.
"We expect the campaign to make quite a buzz financially," he said.
Carr said he already contacted most "major contributors" to his congressional campaign, adding that they supported his decision to switch races. The candidate also said he would be willing to return contributions if donors "were insistent" about their support being for a different race.
Carr also announced that Chip Saltsman, who was hired as an adviser by his congressional campaign, would no longer be continuing with his Senate bid. Saltsman, who managed Mike Huckabee's presidential campaign in 2008 and helped Rep. Chuck Fleischmann secure victories in both 2010 and 2012, had already given an endorsement to Alexander.
"Chip Saltsman has a prior commitment to Alexander," Carr said. "… I wish Chip the best."
Lee Beaman will serve as Carr's state campaign chairman.
Alexander's campaign issued a comment shortly after Carr's announcement, boasting the senator's experience.
"Sen. Alexander has a conservative voting record," it said. "He has an A rating from the NRA and a 100 percent rating from both National Right to Life and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He will continue to do his best to use his experience and conservative principles to solve problems and get results for the people of Tennessee."
The primary is Aug. 7, 2014.
This is a developing story. Nooga.com will have more updates on this story as they become available.
Updated @ 9:45 a.m. on 8/20/13 to add more information as it became available.
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