Speculation begins on candidates to succeed Corker

Sen. Bob Corker’s announcement that he won’t seek reelection in 2018 is likely to touch off a multi-candidate melee among Republicans who would like to succeed him. It has certainly touched off a lot of instant media speculation.

At the top of the instant speculation list is Gov. Bill Haslam, a Corker friend since their college days who, since we’re speculating, might even get the retiring senator’s endorsement. Haslam will be finishing his last year in office in 2018 and has been vague on future plans.

The governor’s popularity in polls, wide name recognition and fund-raising ability – even without personal wealth that Forbes has estimated at $2 billion – could make him the presumptive frontrunner if he decides to run.

Andy Ogles, former state director of Americans for Prosperity, announced his candidacy before Corker announced his exit and stands as the only Republican so far. Besides Haslam, other GOP speculative candidates:

-U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Brentwood probably is the most likely to run of the state’s sitting Republican House members – especially since a spokesperson for Rep. Diane Black tells The Tennessean she will stick with running for governor and not shift to a Senate campaign. Blackburn has become prominent on the Washington scene and has $3 million in her campaign account already that could be used in a Senate race.

Former Rep. Stephen Fincher, who gave up the 8th Congressional District seat last year, is mentioned in various reports. He still has about $2 million in leftover campaign funds that could go into a Senate campaign. Politico says his successor, U.S. Rep. David Kustoff, might consider becoming a candidate – though such a move would seem rather unlikely for a freshman congressman still paying off campaign debt.

State Sen. Mark Green of Clarksville and former state Rep. Joe Carr of Lascassas have indicated they were thinking about running, even against Corker. The Politico story says Green met with Steve Bannon, former chief strategist for President Donald Trump, to discuss a possible run.

Further from Politico:

Other names floated for the seat include former NFL quarterback Peyton Manning and William Hagerty, the co-founder of a major private equity firm and GOP donor who took office as U.S. Ambassador to Japan in July.

The Tennessean throws in Dr. Manny Sethi, an orthopedic trauma surgeon at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Sethi founded Healthy Tennessee, a nonprofit that holds health fairs and clinics around the state.

On the Democratic side, James Mackler, a Nashville lawyer and Army veteran, is already actively campaigning and has raised more than $500,000. Former Gov. Phil Bredesen, 73, tells the Tennessean he’s not interested, but wealthy Nashville businessman Bill Freeman is not so definitive:

“My intention is to help Mackler run in his race, but the deck has been shuffled. It’s a new game today,” he said. “I want to see what Republican steps up, who runs, and whether any other Democrats run.”

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