Will Sen. Corker call it quits next year?

Robert Houk • Sep 24, 2017 at 12:00 AM

I offer a few observations this week from a political pundit’s notebook. I’ll start with U.S. Sen. Sen Bob Corker’s political future. Will he or won’t he seek a third term next year?

Even his closest staffers don’t know the answer.

Corker told me in June he was leaning toward running again, but was quick to add that “something else” could come up. I asked him if that something else could be running for governor.

“I’m not interested,” he said of a gubernatorial campaign.

It may not be what’s up, but what’s gone down in recent months that has the state junior senator rethinking his plans. Sources say polls show his support among likely Republican Primary voters is dreadful. Trumpsters don’t have fond feelings for Corker these days. I guess that’s what happens when you liken the Trump administration to a dumpster (filled with baby diapers) on fire.

Betsy Phillips, a columnist for the Nashville Scene, noted last week that Corker should wear such rebuke from Trump supporters as a badge of honor.

“I swear, if Corker crumbles in the face of these nincompoops, I’m going to start a crusade to make his name synonymous with pointless cowardice," Phillips wrote.


I spoke to a few people last week who say the backlash from the Trump supporters has Corker, who has risen through the ranks in the last decade to now chair the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, believing he can’t win re-election. There is talk that state Sen. Mark Green (whom Trump wanted to make his Army secretary until Green’s comments about transgenders forced Green to withdraw his name from consideration) will get into the Republican race for U.S. Senate. It’s more likely, however, Green will soon land a judgeship.

And I’ve heard Congresswoman Diane Black, who is currently among six Republicans running for governor next year, will drop out of that race to campaign for Senate. Black, who is from Mount Juliet, ought to find some support in Northeast Tennessee. She has also been a strong supporter of the president and is someone who speaks the language of Trump true believers.

Black is one of four women in the GOP field for governor (with Johnson City’s own Kay White, state House Speaker Beth Harwell and former state Sen. Mae Beavers being the others). Harwell visited the Johnson City Press on Thursday and I asked the House speaker what it said about her party to have so many women in the race.

“We have developed a group of qualified women to run for office,” Harwell said.

Of course Harwell is certain she is the most uniquely qualified candidate in the race to serve as governor. While some candidates tout themselves as being “outsiders” (which is usually code for “I know very little about the office I am seeking,” Harwell is proud of her nearly three decades of service in the state House of Representatives.

And she also believes having a woman governor in Tennessee will be particularly special with the 100th anniversary of suffrage coming up in 2020. It was Aug. 18, 1920, when the state House made Tennessee the 36th state needed to ratify the 19th Amendment.

Robert Houk is Opinion page editor for the Johnson City Press. He can be reached at [email protected]


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