Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam announced on Thursday that he will not run for the Republican nomination to replace retiring Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) in the 2018 election.
“Gov Bill Haslam will not run for the U.S. Senate seat held by retiring Sen. Bob Corker, leaving U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn as the likely frontrunner, if she chooses to run,” The Tennessean reported on Thursday morning:
The governor, who is term-limited, made the announcement Thursday in a news release.
“While Crissy and I will always be grateful for all of the encouragement and support to run for the United States Senate, I am announcing today that I will not be a candidate for Senate in 2018,” Haslam said in a statement.
The full statement, released by the governor’s office Thursday morning, offered this explanation of his decision not to run for the United States Senate in 2018:
The primary reason is that I want to remain completely focused on my job as governor. I know that being a candidate for the Senate during my last 15 months as governor would be a distraction from the task at hand. And, while I have loved being a mayor and a governor, I don’t feel the same call to run for Senate at this point. At the end of my term, I will have been in public office for 15 years. I feel like I can be most helpful in my next service as a private citizen.
Haslam’s announcement comes in the wake of a recent series of articles at Breitbart News that highlighted his political vulnerabilities:
- The ongoing investigation and trials of executives at the Haslam-family owned business, Pilot Flying J, on charges of fraud and illegal kickbacks.
- Gov. Haslam’s record as a vocal opponent of President Trump, who called for him to withdraw from the race just one month before his stunning victory over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 general election.
- Questions surrounding potential conflicts of interest involving the governor’s push for a gas tax increase and Pilot Flying J.
- Anti-Trump comments made by brother Jimmy Haslam, owner of the NFL’s Cleveland Browns related to the national anthem protests involving kneeling players.
- Anti-Trump comments by Senator Bob Corker, former college roommate of Jimmy Haslam and a long time political mentor to Gov. Haslam.
- President Trump’s consistent popularity in a state he easily won, 61 percent to 35 percent.
While conservatives have been coalescing around a potential candidacy of Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN-07), Haslam’s decision not to run leaves a void that the establishment Republicans in the state are likely to fill with another candidate.
Sources tell Breitbart News that Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), one of the leading member of the Republican establishment in the state and a strong ally of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), has been vigorously lobbying against a potential Blackburn candidacy, particularly among Political Action Committees.
Opposition from Alexander and other establishment Republicans is likely to solidify Blackburn’s support among the state’s pro-Trump conservative base.