Race now competitive says Mrs. Alexander

By Thomas Wilson

STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com

   Although a political competitor is closing the gap, Honey Alexander says her husband Lamar isn't feeling any panic in his campaign to be the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate.
   "All of a sudden this is a competitive race, and it always has been," said Honey Alexander, who visited Northeast Tennessee on Monday and Tuesday. "You don't just walk into a nomination.
   "Lamar was so far out in front early on, there was really no place to go," she laughed.
   Despite a growing challenge from U.S. Rep. Ed Bryant, R-7th, Alexander continues to lead a field of 12 candidates seeking the Republican nomination for the Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Fred Thompson.
   A poll released Monday by the Washington D.C.-based Mason-Dixon Polling & Research found Alexander leading Bryant 49 percent to 37 percent among Republican voters and ahead of Democratic front-runner Bob Clement by a margin of 48 percent to 39 percent.
   "All the candidates have records and histories they have to run on," she added. "It will be a very tough race in the fall."
   The Alexanders reside in Nashville, and have four children. Honey Alexander grew up in Victoria, Texas, and graduated from Smith College in Northampton, Mass.
   She was staff assistant to the late Sen. John G. Tower, R-Texas, during which time she met and married Lamar Alexander.  
   The couple's journey has taken them from the Tennessee governor's mansion to the U.S. Department of Education, and now into the race for U.S. Senate.
   Honey Alexander said the couple had began discussing a possible run for the Senate last year if Thompson had decided not to seek re-election -- a move that surprised the Alexanders among others.
   She said the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 also contributed to her husband's decision to return to public life.
   The son of a kindergarten teacher and elementary school principal, Lamar Alexander served as Secretary of Education under former President Bush from 1991-1992, and pushed education issues during his term as governor from 1978-1986.
   "Lamar grew up with education," said Alexander. "Our philosophical bent is that decisions on how to educate children are decisions to be made closer to home, by the states and community, not the federal government."
   The former governor has endorsed charter schools and strongly pushed the "GI Bill for Kids," which would give scholarships to middle- and low-income children for use at any accredited school.
   Honey Alexander serves on the boards of the Girl Scout Council, the Cumberland Museum and Science Center, and the Public Education Foundation. She is past president of the board of Family and Children's Service.
   She said when she talked to adolescents at Girls, Inc., in Kingsport Monday, many were concerned about their parents' jobs as well as their future professional opportunities.
   Issues made critical by a shaky U.S. economy she blamed on the dot-com growth craze of the late 1990s.
   "You had people paying these huge prices for stock in companies that had no track record," said Alexander of the 1990s dot-com bust. "We are getting a dose of reality today."