- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 20, 2002

Both President Bush and his father, the former president, are expected to be in Tennessee next month to support former Gov. Lamar Alexander in his Senate race against Democrat Rep. Bob Clement.

The president will be in Nashville on Sept. 17, and his father, George H. W. Bush, will be lunching in Knoxville the following day, the Alexander campaign says. Mr. Alexander served as Education Secretary in the elder Mr. Bush's administration.

"We've requested those dates and we're planning for them to be there," Alexander campaign spokesman Josh Holly said.

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The White House could not yet confirm the president's September schedule.

Mr. Clement and Mr. Alexander are vying for the seat of Republican Sen. Fred Thompson, who is not seeking another term.

Mr. Alexander faced a tough Aug. 1 primary against Rep. Ed Bryant, and Democrats say Republicans are still trying to unite and persuade Mr. Bryant's supporters to back Mr. Alexander.

"Seems to me they're struggling," said Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Bill Farmer.

Republican leaders say the party is clearly united behind Mr. Alexander. "We are seeing an incredible amount of enthusiasm and support for Alexander's campaign," said Elizabeth Phillips, communications director for the Tennessee Republican Party. "We're not hearing anything from Bryant supporters not supporting Lamar. On the contrary, they have been saying 'What can we do to help?'"

The GOP has been pushing "unity," however. Following the primary, Mr. Alexander and Mr. Bryant did a one-day Republican unity tour of the state along with fellow Republicans Mr. Thompson, Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Beth Harwell, Rep. Van Hilleary (who is running for governor) and Jim Henry, who lost the Republican gubernatorial nomination to Mr. Hilleary.

Mr. Alexander and Mr. Bryant also plan to visit Mr. Bryant's turf of West Tennessee next week to rally support there for Mr. Alexander.

And Mr. Thompson is pitching in, too, by recording a TV ad for the Alexander campaign in which he voices his support and notes Mr. Alexander's accomplishments, including "bringing in auto jobs, fixing our schools" as governor. The ad began airing yesterday.

Meanwhile the National Education Association put its support behind Mr. Clement, while the National Right to Life Committee and the National Federation of Independent Business endorsed Mr. Alexander last week.

The Clement camp questioned the NFIB endorsement, noting that the NFIB does not support an increase in the minimum wage or a comprehensive patients' bill of rights, and asking if this means Mr. Alexander opposes these initiatives, which Mr. Clement supports.

"Who would Lamar Alexander disappoint, the National Federation of Independent Business or Tennessee families? Our bet: Tennessee families," reads a Clement campaign release.

Alexander campaign spokesman Kevin Phillips said Mr. Alexander does not support an increase in the minimum wage because it "hurts job growth. Businesses don't expand, new employees don't get hired." He said Mr. Alexander could vote for a patients' bill of rights, but "it would depend on what the provisions were," since there are several versions floating around Congress.

Mr. Clement and Mr. Alexander agreed to hold debates and each appointed an aide to handle the details, but there have been tensions since. Mr. Clement's camp said the Alexander campaign has been unresponsive on the matter.

"Frankly, they haven't been communicating with us," said Bill Fletcher, who is coordinating the debates for Mr. Clement. Mr. Fletcher said he finally heard back yesterday from Mr. Alexander's debate point man, Chip Saltsman, and the two are meeting Friday.

The two campaigns have independently accepted five debates in common, to be held in Jackson, Chattanooga, Knoxville, Nashville and Memphis.

But Mr. Clement's camp has accepted debates which Mr. Alexander has not yet accepted, including one sponsored by the Public Forum in Nashville.

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