U.S. Senate campaign

Harsh Haslam-bashing foreseen if governor runs for Senate

The Associated Press and The Tennessean have collected comments and offered some observations on the developing Republican U.S. Senate primary in separate articles appearing this weekend.

In the Tennessean piece, the lead observation is that Gov. Bill Haslam, if he enters the race, is going to face a lot of opposition from the party’s right wing because of past criticisms of President Donald Trump and a public refusal to vote for him. The AP article includes criticism of the governor from Democrats as well.

Both quote from the conservative Club for Growth’s critique of Haslam on Friday.

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Former TNDP chair backs Mackler in potential Democratic Senate primary fight

Former Tennessee Democratic Party chairman Bob Tuke is standing by fellow military veteran James Mackler, the announced Senate Democratic candidate who learned Wednesday he may come under siege in the Democratic primary from as many as four rivals, including Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke, reports the Times Free Press.

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Haslam ‘thinking and praying” about Senate run

Gov. Bill Haslam said Thursday he will be “thinking and praying” over the “next several days” about a run for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Bob Corker.

The governor said he has talked with Corker about the idea and that Sen. Lamar Alexander encouraged him to seriously consider entering the race, according to The Tennessean.

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Corker talks potential successors, says he won’t endorse

Sen. Bob Corker talked with reporters in his Washington office Tuesday with topics including his potential Republican successors and a declaration that he won’t endorse any of them.

Corker said he’s talked about with U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn and former U.S. Rep. Stephen Fincher about their potential runs – “I think there’s real interest from Congressman Blackburn” — and that Gov. Bill Haslam is a “likely person to at least think about it,” reports the Tennessean.

The senator said he doesn’t think former state Rep. Joe Carr will run and that there is a “low likelihood” that Peyton Manning will get in the race (later in the day, Manning said he will not). He didn’t mention Andy Ogles, the only announced Republican candidate for the seat he now holds.

At the end of the interview, which lasted nearly 30 minutes, Corker added: “By the way we’re not endorsing anybody.”

In the wide-ranging interview, Corker also elaborated on his decision while reflecting on his relationship with President Donald Trump and encouragement from others to run for re-election.

“You have people who are here and around the state and around the country that are saying hey, you can’t leave as the chairman of the foreign relations committee, you can’t leave, you can’t leave us here. There’s that pull to stay by people … who appreciate what you do,” he said.

Washington’s TV station WJLA focused on Corker comments about his relationship with President Trump:

“He truly just calls me sometimes to commiserate… The guy gets 4, 5 hours a night of sleep period.”

Corker went on to describe the president as a “ubiquitous” phone caller. 

“We have a unique relationship.”

Also from Washington, here’s an excerpt from an earlier Politico article:

“I felt in my gut it was the right thing to do some time ago. Your head wants to gut it out and you’ve got people counting on you,” he said. Referring to his fellow Tennessee GOP senator, Lamar Alexander, Corker added: “Lamar has known for some time i was very seriously considering leaving, as has Mitch — as has Trump.”

Corker likely would have faced a tough primary challenge next year from the right, likely backed by Steve Bannon. The former White House strategist met on Monday night in Alabama with Mark Green, who was mulling jumping into the race to challenge Corker.

But Corker said Trump has repeatedly urged him to run again.

“When we knew we had the support of the president, that didn’t really matter,” Corker said of Bannon.

And, the Associated Press says the senator gave few hints on future political plans “but he appears to be leaving the door slightly ajar on a potential run for Tennessee governor next year.”

Corker told reporters at the Capitol on Wednesday that he plans to “serve in some capacity,” but that he’s not actively pursuing any other office at the moment.

There is already a field of five major Republican candidates looking to succeed term-limited Gov. Bill Haslam, and Corker acknowledged that the best time to get into the governor’s race would likely have been a year ago.

UPDATE: Michael Collins followed up with a question to Corker Thursday and got this report (in a Tennessean story):

“I can’t imagine it,” Corker said in an interview Thursday of a possible gubernatorial bid. “We’ve got a field of folks who have been out there working hard, and people are in line behind them. It just doesn’t seem to me that that’s something that is realistic to be thinking about.”

When told that his answer didn’t sound like a definitive no, Corker responded, “You’re probably reading a little too much into it.”

Memphis businessman Webb joins GOP crowd eyeing Senate run

Jeff Webb, the founder and chairman of Memphis-based Varsity Brands is run for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Bob Corker, reports the Memphis Business Journal. He says the CEOs of several companies have contacted him urging that he enter the race for the GOP nomination.

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Democrats Berke, Yarbro eye run for U.S. Senate

Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke and state Sen. Jeff Yarbro of Nashville said separately on Wednesday that they are considering becoming candidates for the Democratic nomination to succeed Republican U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, now that he’s decided against seeking reelection.

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Peyton Manning: No to Senate race, yes to Alzheimer’s research

Football star Peyton Manning told a Nashville sports radio station Wednesday that he won’t run for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, according to the Associated Press.

“I certainly have an interest in politics and in our country,” the former NFL and University of Tennessee quarterback told WGFX-FM. “I just have zero interest in being a politician.”

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Update on Corker successor candidate speculation

Gov. Bill Haslam, through a spokeswoman, declined to comment on the possibility of trying to succeed Sen. Bob Corker Tuesday. He’s certain to be asked about it at his next scheduled media availability on Thursday.

U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn is definitely interested, reports The Tennessean, and will make a decision soon.

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Speculation begins on candidates to succeed Corker

Sen. Bob Corker’s announcement that he won’t seek reelection in 2018 is likely to touch off a multi-candidate melee among Republicans who would like to succeed him. It has certainly touched off a lot of instant media speculation.

At the top of the instant speculation list is Gov. Bill Haslam, a Corker friend since their college days who, since we’re speculating, might even get the retiring senator’s endorsement. Haslam will be finishing his last year in office in 2018 and has been vague on future plans.

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Corker announces he will NOT seek reelection

News release from Sen. Bob Corker:

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) today released the following statement.

“After much thought, consideration and family discussion over the past year, Elizabeth and I have decided that I will leave the United States Senate when my term expires at the end of 2018.

“When I ran for the Senate in 2006, I told people that I couldn’t imagine serving for more than two terms. Understandably, as we have gained influence, that decision has become more difficult. But I have always been drawn to the citizen legislator model, and while I realize it is not for everyone, I believe with the kind of service I provide, it is the right one for me.

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Former Knoxville News Sentinel capitol bureau chief Tom Humphrey writes about Tennessee politics, government, and legislative news.

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