Gov. Bill Haslam issued a statement Thursday saying he will not run for U.S. Senate, altering the calculus of the race to replace the retiring Republican Bob Corker and other races down the ballot. So far, two other politicians have announced their decisions later in the day as well.
First, the term-limited governor said he expects to become a private citizen after 2018.
My statement on the 2018 U.S. Senate race. pic.twitter.com/1pLR0MhSEd
— Gov. Bill Haslam (@BillHaslam) October 5, 2017
Haslam would have been the favorite of the Tennessee Republican Party's pro-business wing of the party. And as a billionaire and experienced fundraiser, he would also have had plenty of money to finance a bid.
But in his seven years in state government, Haslam's developed a reputation as a moderate, which would have led to a tough fight for the Republican nomination.
Haslam's decision not to get into the race significantly helps the chances of Congressman Marsha Blackburn, who announced her decision about an hour after Haslam announced his: She will get into the race.
"I'm a hardcore, card-carrying Tennessee conservative," she says to the camera in a video announcement. "I'm politically incorrect and proud of it, so let me just say it like it is."
Too many Senate Republicans act like Democrats. I'm running to make the Republican majority act like one. Retweet!
— Marsha Blackburn (@VoteMarsha) October 5, 2017
Blackburn is seen as one of the few candidates who can unite the Tennessee Republican Party's business and tea party wings. Her main challenger in the GOP primary so far is conservative activist Andrew Ogles.
Nashville lawyer James Mackler is so far the only Democrat in the race, though several others are considering running.
Then, Blackburn’s announcement was quickly followed by a statement from state Sen. Mark Green of Clarksville: The veteran and physician now plans to run for Congress.
“Tennesseans living in the 7th District have grown to expect the effective, conservative representation of Congressman Marsha Blackburn," he said in a statement emailed to the media. "As a proven conservative fighter, I am ready to earn the trust of the voters and take my values and leadership to the United States Congress."
Green was President Trump’s choice to be Secretary of the Army but withdrew from the process when it looked like he might not be confirmed. He was one of the first to announce a bid for Tennessee governor but abandoned his campaign early on when he was nominated to be Army Secretary. His campaign website has now transitioned to "Mark Green for Congress."