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Conservative activist announces bid for Corker's Tennessee Senate seat

Associated Press • Updated Sep 14, 2017 at 2:03 PM

NASHVILLE — Conservative activist Andy Ogles announced Thursday he will run for the U.S. Senate seat held by Tennessee Republican Bob Corker, who has so far refused to divulge whether he will seek a third term.

Ogles headed the state chapter of Americans for Prosperity, the political arm of billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch’s network that has often displayed a willingness to take on Republicans — including President Donald Trump — when their policies aren’t deemed conservative enough. The group announced plans in June to spend up to $400 million in the 2018 midterm elections.

“Over the past several months it has become increasingly clear that too many of our elected officials in Washington are failing our country, failing to fulfill their promises, and failing our future,” Ogles said in a release announcing his candidacy.

The Koch network has aggressively pushed to repeal former President Barack Obama’s health care law in Congress, and Ogles helped lead successful efforts to torpedo Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s efforts to expand Medicaid in Tennessee.

Ogles also pushed for a repeal of the state’s tax on earnings from stocks and bonds that is in the process of being phased out, but he fell short in his efforts this year to defeat Haslam’s road funding package that included the state’s first gas tax hike since 1989.

“Republican majorities in the House and Senate have not been able to repeal and replace Obamacare, balance the budget, or cut taxes,” Ogles said in the release that did not specifically refer to Corker.

“Congress now appears more focused on providing amnesty to illegals to placate so-called Dreamers while refusing to build the wall and secure the American Dream for American citizens,” he said.

While several Republicans have expressed interest in running, Ogles is the first to make his bid official.

Ogles, 46, worked on Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign in 2012 before becoming head of the state chapter of Americans for Prosperity in 2013. He has stepped down from the organization to pursue his Senate bid.

Ogles earned his undergraduate degree from Middle Tennessee State University and lives in Franklin with his wife, Monica, and three children.

Corker as recently as this week said he was unsure about whether to run for re-election. Corker, a sometime Trump critic sits on a hefty campaign account for next year’s race. The former Chattanooga mayor has $7.5 million cash on hand, according to Todd Womack, a senior aide to the senator.

“While we are in a strong position, I am still contemplating the future and will make a decision at the appropriate time,” Corker said in a statement Monday.

Corker, 65, chairs the influential Foreign Relations Committee and has been regarded as a shoo-in for a third term. His name surfaced as possible secretary of state in the Trump administration, a job that went to Rex Tillerson.

Corker raised eyebrows last month when he questioned whether Trump had the “stability” and “competence” to become a successful president after he said both sides were to blame for the violence surrounding a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Trump later responded on Twitter: “Strange statement by Bob Corker considering that he is constantly asking me whether or not he should run again in ‘18.” Trump added, “Tennessee not happy!”

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