One of the state’s incumbent U.S. legislators said he was hoping the Nov. 4 general election resulted not only in his re-election, but in a restructuring of power that could yield changes for education in Tennessee and the country.

If the Republican party was to win a majority in the Senate, as the ranking member of the committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions, Sen. Lamar Alexander would assume the role of its chairman.

“It’s got the largest jurisdiction in the Senate, and it’s one reason I’m running again,” Alexander said. “It would put me in a position to actually get things done, which is what I like to do.”

During a Tuesday meeting with the Johnson City Press Editorial Board, Alexander said he had several ideas about the opportunities that would be awarded to him if he was to assume leadership of the committee.

“It would give me a chance to help replace Obamacare, it would give me a chance to make it easier for students to go to college by simplifying the application forms, it would give me a chance to put on the floor my ‘No National School Board’ bill, which would move out of Washington and back to Johnson City and the state of Tennessee all decisions about curriculum, Common Core (and) teacher evaluation,” he said.

The issue of Common Core state standards is not unfamiliar ground for Alexander. During his campaign in the Tennessee Republican primary, Alexander found his position on Common Core called into question on several occasions.

“The Common Core state standards were created by governors, many of them conservative Republicans who were working together,” he said. “That’s fine, if that’s what the governors want to do. What’s not fine is when the U.S. Secretary of Education comes in and says ‘if you want a waiver from No Child Left Behind, you’ve got to do what I tell you about academic standards.’ ”

Though he said he was not in favor of Common Core standards, Alexander added that states should have the right to choose whether or not to adopt them.

“I don’t want to tell Tennessee it should have Common Core,” he said. “If Tennessee or Kentucky wants to adopt Common Core, the state has the right to be right (and) the state has the right to be wrong. What’s wrong with what’s going on today is that Washington was, in effect, telling states they have to have Common Core.”

While the notion of national educational standards is disagreeable to him, Alexander said he was in favor of another national change to education — shortening the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Alexander said he had heard testimony that suggested students were discouraged from seeking financial aid because of the 10-page questionnaire.

“What we’re discovering is that just the complexity of that discourages lots of students who would otherwise go to college,” he said. “There are all these rules and regulations and a lot of them are unnecessary. This is an enormous burden.”

Alexander suggested dropping the number of questions from 108 to two — which would concern an applicants’ family sizes and incomes — but added there was also discussion for a five- or six-question application, as well.

While Alexander’s placement as HELP committee chairman would help facilitate those and other ideas, his first step in acquiring that position would be to win re-election. To do so, he will have to defeat his Democratic party challenger Gordon Ball, a Knoxville-based attorney. Although Ball has dubbed himself a “hybrid” left- and right-wing candidate during his campaign, Alexander said he didn’t think that claim was sincere.

“I’m the one who wants to change,” Alexander said. “He’s the one who’s trying to fool people into thinking he’s not one more vote for Obama, when that’s precisely what he is.”

As evidence, Alexander referred to a story that was published Monday by Buzzfeed that indicated the majority of the “issues” section of Ball’s campaign website was plagiarized from transcribed speeches from prominent congressional Democrats. Though Ball has denied any knowledge that his issues were plagiarized, Alexander said it was proof that Ball would not follow through on promises of bipartisanship.

“His website is his statement on the issues,” Alexander said. “He just cuts and pastes from (Sen.) Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and other Obama supporters. At least it helps make clear the choice, and it makes it pretty hard for him to fool voters into thinking he’s not what he is.”

Though Ball’s bipartisanship may have been called into question, questions over the bipartisan efforts from sitting members of Congress have persisted over the last several years. A Gallup poll from early July placed the Congressional approval rating at around 15 percent. In that same poll, respondents were asked how governmental efficiency could improve. The second-most commonly heard response called for an increase in bipartisan efforts. The most common response was to recall or replace all sitting Congressmen and women.

Rather than replace sitting members of Congress, Alexander suggested that voters grant Republicans control of the Senate in an effort to facilitate some type of change.

“It couldn’t make it worse; it would have to make it better,” he said. “So many people are unhappy with the direction of this country. The only chance for real change is to give the Republican party the Senate majority and see how we go.”