On early twists and turns in the 2018 GOP race for governor

Excerpt from a review of recent developments in the 2018 gubernatorial campaign by the AP’s Eric Schelzig:

The repeal of former President Barack Obama’s health care law was supposed to provide a springboard for U.S. Rep. Diane Black’s entry into the Tennessee governor’s race.

State Sen. Mark Green was supposed to capture to the core of President Donald Trump’s supporters.

And term-limited Gov. Bill Haslam’s gas tax proposal was supposed to fall flat, avoiding political difficulties for House Speaker Beth Harwell.

But none of that has happened as expected, leaving an unsettled Republican field for the 2018 gubernatorial nomination.

The bid to replace and repeal the health care law fell apart, and Black, who chairs the powerful House Budget Committee, has given little indication since then about her plans about entering the governor’s race.

Green has put his gubernatorial ambitions on hold since being nominated by Trump to become the next secretary of the Army. That might lead tea party-styled Republicans like state Sen. Mae Beavers or former Rep. Joe Carr to jump in the race.

And Haslam’s transportation plan is poised for votes on both the House and Senate floors next week (with House Speaker Beth Harwell and Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, both prospective GOP gubernatorial candidates) taking different positions – at least at one point, though Harwell may be moving back to back the Haslam plan).

…With Green’s attention now focused on the Pentagon, the only Republican candidate actively campaigning around the state is Haslam’s former education adviser and economic development commissioner Randy Boyd. The Knoxville philanthropist burnishes his credentials as a natural successor to the popular incumbent.

…Potential opponents couldn’t help but take notice last month when the Knoxville Zoo announced Boyd and his wife, Jenny, were donating $5 million to the facility.

But asked whether Boyd’s ability to fund his own race would influence her decision whether to enter the race, Harwell responded with a curt: “No.”

Norris, who like Harwell is awaiting the end of the legislative session before deciding on whether to join the race, shared a similar sentiment.

“That’s less that he can spend on his campaign,” Norris said. “I hope he continues to spend freely.”

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