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Tennessee Sens. Alexander, Corker to gain new clout in US Senate following national GOP wins

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NASHVILLE, Tennessee — Tennessee is about to gain new clout in the U.S. Senate following national gains by Republicans in Tuesday's election.

Republicans succeeded in picking up at least seven seats, one more than they needed to take over control of the Senate. That means Sen. Lamar Alexander, who resoundingly defeated Democrat Gordon Ball on Tuesday, is now poised to head the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, while Sen. Bob Corker is set to become chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.

Alexander, a former governor and two time presidential candidate, had said the prospect of becoming a committee chairman had motivated him to run for a third term.

"I ran for re-election to be part of a new majority in the Senate that will fix our broken system, get the right things done, and begin to move our country in a new direction," Alexander said in his victory speech in Knoxville. "I'll do this in a way Tennesseans know well — to work with others to get results."

Corker, who has been a vocal critic of President Barack Obama on foreign policy matters, said in a statement Tuesday that he looks forward to the change.

"After years of gridlock, this election represents a unique opportunity for Congress and the administration to govern responsibly," he said. "Some of our country's greatest achievements have occurred when one party controls Congress and another the White House."

PHOTO: U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn. smiles as he talks on the phone after retaining his seat in the Senate, Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014, in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)
U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn. smiles as he talks on the phone after retaining his seat in the Senate, Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014, in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)

Alexander suffered a closer-than-expected primary contest against tea-party styled challenger Joe Carr in August, but he resoundingly defeated Democrat Ball by 30 percentage points in the general election Tuesday.

The wide margin of victory likely came as a surprise even to Alexander, who as late as Monday was making the case to reporters that a far smaller victory would have still been convincing.

"In my policies experience, anybody who wins and election by 5 or 6 percentage points has a good win, and if you win by 10 you've got a massive win," Alexander said.

Also cruising to re-election Tuesday was Republican Gov. Bill Haslam, who beat Democrat Charlie Brown by 47 percentage points. Brown had no organized campaign and reported raising no money for his gubernatorial bid.

Haslam in his victory speech pledged to "double down on the progress that Tennessee is making," particularly in education.

"We've moved too far in terms of real progress in education," he said. "We want to have Tennessee be a different place for educational outcomes for our children."

Haslam has been heavily criticized by the tea party wing of his party for the state's participation in Common Core education standards.

Tennessee voters also approved four amendments to the Tennessee Constitution to grant state lawmakers more power to regulate abortions; keep the state's current system of merit selection of Supreme Court justices; permanently ban a state income tax; and allow veterans groups to engage in charitable gaming.

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PHOTO: Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn. and his wife Honey Alexander walk down the hallway as they make their way to the war room on election night, Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014, in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)
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