Haslam hopes for strong relations with Trump administration

Associated Press • Updated Nov 9, 2016 at 8:18 PM

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Republican Gov. Bill Haslam said Wednesday he hopes to have a strong relationship with Donald Trump’s administration despite publicly announcing before the presidential election that he wouldn’t vote for the GOP nominee.

Haslam cited his close friendship with Trump’s running mate Mike Pence and said he is encouraged by the tone of Trump’s acceptance speech following Tuesday’s upset victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton.

“We should hope for all success for the new president,” Haslam said. “‘‘And for us, because we have such a critical working relationship with the federal government, we’ll be working hard to build that relationship from day one.”

Following the release of a videotape in which Trump boasted about groping women, Haslam called on him to step aside as the nominee. Haslam has declined to say for whom he voted, other than to say his chosen candidate did not win.

“I had some questions about President-elect Trump. I had some big concerns with Secretary Clinton,” Haslam said. “As a governor, there’s some good news: Trump has spoken basically a lot about giving power back to the states. I think that’s a good thing.”

“From a governor’s standpoint whether you be a Democrat or a Republican, you should say we think that’s a good thing in terms of managing the size of this country,” he said. “A lot of decisions could be made more effectively at the state level. That’s an encouraging thing going forward.”

Haslam said it is too early to say what he would do if Republican U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Rations committee, is selected for a position in the Trump administration.

“The country would be well-served to have Sen. Corker in a nationwide role,” Haslam said of his close family friend.

Even though Corker’s future is unclear, Haslam said he has received more than 25 inquiries about the position should it be vacated.

If Corker does take on another role, Haslam said he would lean toward appointing a caretaker senator who wouldn’t run in the next election to allow for an open race in 2018. But Haslam said he wouldn’t appoint himself.

Meanwhile, Haslam said he is hopeful that Trump can use his outsider status to find new consensus in a divided nation.

“President-elect Trump, I don’t think, comes in with a lot of hard, fast ideological positions on the big issues of the country,” Haslam said. “I think there’s a chance to have a fresh discussion about things.”

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