NASHVILLE — Tennessee Republican Mark Green today firmly closed the door on re-starting his GOP gubernatorial primary campaign but is looking at opening another one that could lead him to Washington.
"I will not be resuming my campaign for governor," the state senator from Clarksville said in a statement Friday afternoon. "I will instead look to Washington, D.C., to help serve our country and provide real help to President Trump."
He said "several options exist in the near future to do this and I will continue discussions with people around the state and Washington as I find the best path of service."
In January, the physician, businessman and U.S. Army veteran was the first to enter the governor's race. But he suspended his campaign earlier this spring while under consideration to be Republican President Donald Trump's Army secretary, who later nominated him for the post.
But after withering attacks on the national level from critics over various comments he's made in the past about Islam and LGBT issues, Green last month withdrew his name from consideration.
Green has maintained they are distortions from the left.
Many of Green's supporters on the Tennessee GOP's right, meanwhile, urged him to re-enter the governor's race. He later showed some interest, appearing at several public events. But last week Green announced he had made a decision on his future, then declined to reveal it until Friday.
Many believed Green was out of the governor's race because state Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, quickly said she was running for governor. Both state lawmakers often take the same positions on social legislation.
"My mission is the conservative cause, not a position," Green said in his statement. "The very difficult task of electing a true conservative to be the 50th Governor of Tennessee when the vote will clearly be split among several candidates, harms that cause. For that reason, I will not be resuming my campaign for governor."
His decision tightens the crowded 2018 gubernatorial field for governor but even before Friday's announcement there has been speculation the ambitious Green might turn his eye to federal office.
"Several options exist in the near future to do this and I will continue discussions with people around the state and Washington as I find the best path of service," Green said in his statement on Friday.
One federal race up in 2018 is for U.S. Senate with incumbent Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., widely expected to seek reelection to a third term, although he has yet to announce.
In an interview published earlier this with The Tennessee Star, a conservative online news site, Green noted that he and U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., "have not always agreed on policy decisions."
But Green also added in the same sentence that Corker "was a huge advocate for me in this [confirmation] process including working to get the truth in response to the attacks against me to the members of the Senate Armed Services Committee."
Green also added that U.S. Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn., and Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tennessee, "were also great advocates on my behalf during the process."
Black has yet to announce, but many believe the Gallatin Republican is running for governor.
Clarksville is in Blackburn's congressional district. She has been a conservative fixture for years.
Green's decision not to get back into the governor's race could bring a little more clarity to a crowded GOP field.
Beavers, meanwhile, plans her official announcement on Saturday.
Besides Beavers and Black, other Republicans who have announced or are taking a hard look at doing so include Knoxville Republican businessman Randy Boyd, a former state economic and community development commissioner; state House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville; Franklin businessman Bill Lee and state Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville.
On the Democratic side are former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, who has already announced, and state House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley, whom many expect will run.