Lamar Alexander, who served as Secretary of Education under President George Bush, made it official last week: He will seek the 1996 Republican Presidential nomination.
Mr. Alexander made the announcement on the steps of the county courthouse in his hometown of Maryville, Tenn., and his theme was a call for returning decisionmaking authority to local communities.
“Because I am absolutely committed to moving responsibility out of Washington, D.C., and giving us the freedom to make decisions for ourselves ... I am announcing today that I am a candidate for the office of President of the United States,” Mr. Alexander said.
“If you agree that the problem is the arrogance of Washington, D.C., and the answer is the character of our people,” he said, “then this campaign is for you.”
The former Secretary--who has also served as the Governor of Tennessee and the president of the University of Tennessee--is apparently positioning himself as a Republican “Washington outsider” in an effort to distinguish himself from the party’s other announced candidate, Sen. Phil Gramm, R-Tex., and Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kan., who is expected to formally enter the race next month. But that message may be undercut if one or more sitting G.O.P. governors enter the race as some observers speculate may happen.
Mr. Alexander also took a jab at the new Republican majority in Congress by saying that recent G.O.P. legislation imposes new mandates on states.
“The greatest danger Republicans have is this: Now that we have captured Washington, we must not let Washington capture us,” Mr. Alexander said.
Mr. Alexander, who had been preparing a Presidential bid for several months, served in the Bush Administration from March 1991 to January 1993.
In his announcement speech, Mr. Alexander drew heavily on his record as an education reformer, both as Secretary and as Governor of Tennessee, where improving the state’s school system was a major focus of his administration.
He reiterated a call he has made recently to eliminate the Education Department, as part of an initiative to curb what he called the “arrogant empire” of the federal government.
And Mr. Alexander said that reinforcing the institutions of neighborhood, family, school, and church is the way to recapture “the promise of American life.”
Repeating two themes that dominated his tenure as Secretary, Mr. Alexander also called for the end of affirmative-action policies and for giving families, especially the poor, “the broadest possible choice of all schools.”
As Secretary, Mr. Alexander backed a policy that declared most scholarships based on race to be illegal, and proposed a controversial program that would have given parents federal funds to help pay tuition at private schools.
The candidate also said last week that he supports “a moment of silence including voluntary prayer in our schools,” an idea he said he endorsed as Governor.
Mr. Alexander made campaign stops in New Hampshire, Iowa, Texas, and Florida last week, and has scheduled a series of fund-raisers across the country over the next several weeks.
A version of this article appeared in the March 08, 1995 edition of Education Week as Alexander Declares Candidacy for 1996 G.O.P. Nomination