Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) will retire at the end of his term and won’t run for reelection in 2020, he announced Monday.
“I will not be a candidate for re-election to the United States Senate in 2020. 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,” Alexander said in a statement.
The senator is the chairman of the influential Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and a powerful moderate with close ties to Senate leadership.
His decision makes him the latest member of the GOP’s old guard to head for the exits — and the latest bipartisan dealmaker in both parties to decide to leave the increasingly partisan upper chamber.
The three-term senator first served as governor and U.S. Secretary of Education before running for president in 1996 and 2000. In the Senate, he once served in GOP leadership, but left to be able to freelance more on policy. He worked across party lines on a variety of environmental issues including climate change, though he opposed the cap & trade bill, and helped bipartisan immigration reform efforts pass the Senate in 2013. He also led successful efforts to reform the No Child Left Behind education law. His efforts to find bipartisan agreement to change Obamacare failed last year, however, as Republican leaders decided to push a more conservative repeal plan.
His replacement in the heavily conservative state is likely to be a Republican. Former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen (D), arguably the strongest candidate Democrats could run in the state, just lost his Senate bid to Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) by a double-digit margin, and it appears the state is out of reach for Democrats at least in federal races.