NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A former Tennessee GOP leader said state House Speaker Beth Harwell told her she is running for governor, but the Nashville Republican responded Monday that she will make her decision after state lawmakers go home for the year.
Susan Richardson Williams, a former Tennessee Republican Party chairwoman, posted on Facebook last week that Harwell called to let her know she's running for governor, the Chattanooga Times Free Press first reported.
Harwell confirmed that she has been making calls to prospective supporters but emphasized that she hasn't make a decision about whether to mount a bid.
"I have been calling around, exploring with folks," Harwell said. "I asked for her input, and I made it quite clear that no announcement or decision would be made until after the legislative session."
The Republican field to succeed term-limited Gov. Bill Haslam already includes state Sen. Mark Green of Ashland City and Knoxville businessman Randy Boyd, though several others are weighing joining the race. They include U.S. Rep. Diane Black of Gallatin, businessman Bill Lee of Franklin, Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris and former state Rep. Joe Carr of Murfreesboro.
Former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean is the only Democrat to officially join the race so far.
Harwell, who is tied with one other lawmaker as the longest-serving member of the House, said she would base her campaign on her experience at the state Capitol.
"I have a knowledge of state government, and I think I know how to work with the legislative body," she said. "Governors don't do anything unless they work with the Legislature."
Harwell also cited her "conservative principles that we've put in place since I've been speaker these six years, and I think it's been a good thing for Tennesseans."
Sitting lawmakers are banned from raising money during the legislative session, though filing with the state as a candidate allows gubernatorial hopefuls to begin spending money on campaign staff.