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Senator Alexander defeats Tea Party challenge in Tennessee primary

By Tim Ghianni

NASHVILLE Tenn. (Reuters) - U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander on Thursday earned the Republican spot on the November general election ballot after defeating a state representative with Tea Party support in Tennessee's primary.

In front of supporters, Alexander declared victory over state Representative Joe Carr, his closest competitor, who had Tea Party backing, and five other conservatives, calling on his opponents to join in supporting his bid for reelection.

"I want to take Tennessee's get-it-done kind of leadership, put it in the United States Senate and move our country in a different direction," he said, during his victory speech.

Although Senate Republican incumbents like Alexander have fared well this primary season, the defeat of former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in June at the hands of a Tea Party candidate shook the Washington and Republican establishments.

Cantor's loss has been widely viewed as stemming from a neglect of his district and over-confidence.

That was not the case for Alexander, who crisscrossed the state on a bus tour aimed at convincing voters to support him in the primary.

He also spent nearly $5.2 million from the start of 2013 through July 18, compared with Carr's expenditure of less than $1 million, according to federal campaign filings.

Late on Thursday, the primary race between U.S. Representative Scott DesJarlais and his closest challenger state Senator Jim Tracy was too close to call, according to unofficial state election results.

DesJarlais, a physician first elected in 2010, admitted to a state board last year to having had sexual relationships with two female patients in 2000.

(Additional reporting by Nick Carey; Writing by David Bailey; Editing by Sharon Bernstein, Stephen Coates and Clarence Fernandez)

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