“The United States Senate: it’s totally dysfunctional and it’s enough to drive you nuts. And that’s why I’ve decided to do something about it,” Blackburn said in her nearly three-minute long announcement video. “I’m a hard core, card-carrying conservative. I’m politically incorrect and proud of it.”
An early supporter of President Donald Trump, Blackburn was a frequent surrogate for him on TV and served on his transition team. Trump won Tennessee by 26 points last fall and his approval rating among GOP primary voters remain in the mid-80s, according to one Republican in the state.
Blackburn will likely have the resources to compete in an expensive and potentially crowded GOP primary. She ended the 2nd quarter with $3.1 million.
Gov. Bill Haslam was weighing a run, but he announced on Twitter that he would the not run for Senate. He said a Senate run would have distracted him from his job as governor.
Haslam, who’s term-limited, previously told the Tennesseean he’s talked to Corker about a possible bid and that Sen. Lamar Alexander has encouraged him to run. Haslam’s family founded the petroleum company Pilot Corporation, so he could have been a significant self funder.
Another potential candidate could be former 8th District Rep. Stephen Fincher, who retired at the end of the 114th Congress. He met with his family last Tuesday night to discuss the possibility of entering the race and was hoping to make a decision by last Friday.
Fincher told The Tennessean that the family health issue that caused him to leave Congress has been improved. Fincher still has $2.3 million in his campaign account.
Americans for Prosperity state director Andy Ogles is already in the race, having launched a primary challenge to Corker. But he wasn’t expected to gain much traction without the backing of the national AFP brand.
Blackburn has long been mentioned as a candidate for statewide office and was reportedly eying Alexander’s seat if the senator retired in 2020.
First elected in 2002, Blackburn serves on the Energy and Commerce Committee and now chairs the Communications and Technology Subcommittee.
Blackburn, who likes to be called “congressman,” is one of five GOP women leaving the House at the end of the 115th Congress.
She’ll vacate a safe GOP seat that will also attract interest from many ambitious Republicans clamoring for a rare open seat in a nearly single-party state.
State Sen. Mark Green, who had been eyeing a challenge to Corker, decided Thursday to drop from the Senate race to the 7th District race, according to The Tennessean. The conservative Club for Growth PAC endorsed Green shortly after news broke that he was running for the House.
Green was Trump’s second nominee for Army secretary, but he withdrew his name from consideration because of past controversial statements. He was in Alabama last week meeting with Steve Bannon before the GOP runoff.
GOP strategist Chip Saltsman may also be interested. A former political adviser to former Majority Leader Bill Frist, Saltsman was senior adviser to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s 2016 presidential campaign and ran his 2008 campaign. A former state party chairman, he’s also served as 3rd District Rep. Chuck Fleischmann’s chief of staff.
Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race Solid Republican.