Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) announced Monday that he will not seek re-election in 2020.
“I will not be a candidate for re-election to the United States Senate in 2020,” wrote Alexander, who at 78 is one of the oldest senators in Congress. “The people of Tennessee have been very generous, electing me to serve more combined years as Governor and Senator than anyone else from our state. I am deeply grateful, but now it is time for someone else to have that privilege. I have gotten up every day thinking that I could help make our state and country a little better, and gone to bed most nights thinking that I have. I will continue to serve with that same spirit during the remaining two years of my term.”
Alexander has served in the Senate since 2003, and his popularity in Tennessee would have all but guaranteed his re-election in 2020. His decision to retire frees up a seat that Democrats
could potentially secure as they try to cut into Republicans
’ 53-47 advantage in the Senate. In November, Trump-loving Republican Marsha Blackburn walloped Democrat Phil Bredesen in the race to fill the seat that will be left vacant when Alexander’s longtime colleague, Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), leaves office next month. Though Blackburn bested Bredesen by over 10 percentage points, many believed Bredesen, who served as the state’s governor from 2003 to 2011, had a chance to deliver Democrats a Senate seat in Tennessee for the first time since 1995. Changing demographics and growing concern over the president’s legal troubles could work to bring the state’s other seat into play in 2020.
Shortly after the announcement was made, Corker — one of the Senate’s biggest Trump critics, among Republicans — released a statement commending Alexander’s time in office
. “As one of the finest statesman our state has ever seen, Lamar will leave behind a remarkable legacy,” he wrote wrote. “I know he will press through the next two years with great vigor, and a I look forward to all he will accomplish on behalf of Tennesseans as he completes his service in Washington.”
Prior to entering Congress, Alexander served as Tennessee’s governor from 1979-1987. He went on to serve as the U.S. education secretary under George H.W. Bush, and ran for president in both 1996 and 2000. During his time in the Senate, Alexander was known as a bipartisan and a pragmatist, which may explain why he’s decided to pull the rip cord as President Trump continues to wreak havoc on what’s left of decency and common sense in politics. Alexander was a prominent voice in Republicans’ failed effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, and advocated for working with Democrats to resolve the issue. “We have got a fractured country,” he told the New York Times last year. “This is the most important institution for creating a consensus on tough issues like health care, like civil rights, like elementary and secondary education.”
Alexander currently serves as chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, but because of the party’s committee term-limit rules would have had to relinquish the post at the end of the next Congress. Not so legislatively consequential was Alexander’s musical acumen. He was a seasoned pianist, and even performed on the Grand Old Opry. Earlier this year, he released a “mixtape” with Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), who has a songwriting history of his own
Hatch, who at 84 is one of the only senators older than Alexander, is retiring at the end of the year. Considering former punk bassist Beto O’Rourke wasn’t able to prevent Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) from winning re-election last month, the Senate’s unofficial musical caucus could be in danger of going extinct when Alexander leaves Congress in two years.