Less than a week after winning re-election, state Sen. Mark Green is launching a statewide listening tour ahead of what many insiders believe will be an eventual bid to become governor.
Green, R-Clarksville, is expected to announce on Monday an ongoing statewide listening tour called "Tennessee Next" that's already started to collect ideas and information from Tennesseans.
"The frustration of voters is unmistakable and the election of Donald Trump as president is a clear message to the permanent political class," Green said a news release. "The only way to begin cleaning up the mess of poll-driven politics is to start listening directly to those we represent.”
Green does not explicitly state that he is entering the 2018 gubernatorial race, but statewide tours like Green's are common political maneuvers ahead of efforts to seek statewide office. It would be Green's first attempt at seeking a statewide position.
Green also has already circulated an online survey to gain input from Tennesseans.
The news release said Green's listening tour will include stops in Kingsport, Johnson City, Morristown, Knoxville, Crossville, Athens, Chattanooga, Cleveland, and more. The tour will last through January when the 2017 legislative session begins.
Gov. Bill Haslam is term-limited and will complete his second term in 2018, and most prospective candidates are expected to launch their party primary campaigns in the next several months.
"Tennessee, unlike Washington, DC, has accomplished some wonderful things and restrained state government to serve its citizens and businesses instead of choking them out of existence," Green said. "But, ‘good to great’ will only occur when there’s an ongoing commitment to our most valuable resource in Tennessee – our people."
Green financed his second senatorial run primarily through loans from himself, including one for $300,000. His most recent campaign disclosure filed Nov. 7 indicates his campaign account has about $480,000.
Green is a former Army officer and doctor who owns an emergency department management firm that may eclipse $1 billion in worth in the next few years..
The survey seeks input on a variety of hot-button state and national issues from abortion, Syrian refugees, TennCare, the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, to support of federal representation in the U.S. House and Senate.
Green has been highly critical of Obamacare and Insure Tennessee, Haslam's plan to expand access to health insurance to hundreds of thousands of low-income Tennesseans. Green also has been touting his measure during the 2016 legislative session to repeal the Hall income tax.
Senate run? Depends on Corker
Though most of the questions point to key issues within the state legislature – like the gas tax – some of the issues are federal ones, which could indicate Green has not ruled out a run for the Senate seat of Sen. Bob Corker, should Trump tap him for a position within the the new administration.
Haslam said Wednesday that if Trump were to select Corker, that he would prefer to appoint a "caretaker" to hold the seat until the election in 2018.
Corker has deflected questions about his future in Trump's presidential administration, calling it "premature" on Wednesday.
Corker is considered a top candidate for the U.S. secretary of state or U.S. secretary of treasury posts, or, if not tapped for a Trump cabinet position, a possible gubernatorial candidate.
Other potential 2018 gubernatorial candidates, in no particular order:
- U.S. Rep. Diane Black, who was re-elected Nov. 8.
- U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, who was re-elected Nov. 8.
- Retired U.S. Rep. Stephen Fincher
- Former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, who's also been touring the state.
- Alberto Gonzalez, former U.S. Attorney for President George W. Bush and dean at Belmont's college of law, who also has been around the state on a book tour.
- Randy Boyd, current commissioner, Department of Economic and Community Development.
- Andy Ogles, executive director for Americans for Prosperity Tennessee, a right-wing lobby group.
- Bill Hagerty, investment banker and former commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development who's currently serving on the Trump transition team in Washington, D.C..
- Tre Hargett, current Tennessee secretary of state.
- Joe Carr, former state representative and 2016 GOP primary challenger to Black.