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He's Back

Lamar Alexander, the two-time Tennessee governor, two-time presidential candidate, and one-time secretary of education, is hoping to add one more credential: U.S. senator.

His announcement last week of his candidacy came just days after Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., unexpectedly said he would not seek re-election.

Mr. Alexander, 61, who headed the Department of Education from 1991 to 1993 under the first President Bush, listed education as one of his campaign priorities.

Lamar Alexander

"As senator, I will do whatever I can to help our country win this war [on terrorism]," he said Feb. 12. "But I will work just as hard at home—fixing our schools, strengthening our families and communities, and helping those who are hurting to get a better job."

Last month, he joined Secretary of Education Rod Paige and several former secretaries for a Duke University forum, where he talked up the so-called GI Bill for Kids, a holdover idea from his Washington stint. Calling it a "horse trade" for K-12 education, he explained it this way: "put significant new federal dollars into schools that help the neediest children—in exchange for letting those dollars follow children to the school of their parents' choice."

He acknowledged, though, that the plan didn't gain much traction a decade ago.

Mr. Alexander's views on the federal education role seem to have shifted over time. After leaving the department, he began to talk about eliminating it, a position he advocated during his 1996 campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.

But he didn't reiterate that stance—which has lost favor in the GOP—at Duke.

While Mr. Alexander is considered a strong contender in the Senate race, he will face at least one other candidate—Rep. Ed Bryant, first elected to Congress in 1994—in the August GOP primary.

—Erik W. Robelen

Vol. 21, Issue 27, Page 19

Published in Print: March 20, 2002, as Federal File

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