Green rules out 2018 GOP primary challenge to Corker

FILE - In this May 9, 2017, file photo, state Sen. Mark Green, R-Ashland City, casts a vote during a Senate session in Nashville, Tenn. Green said on Monday, May 30, 2017 that he has made up his mind about whether he will re-join the Tennessee's governor's race, but won't announce his decision until later. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, file)

NASHVILLE - Republican state Sen. Mark Green announced today he won't challenge U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., in next year's Republican Senate primary and will instead devote near-term efforts to encouraging fellow religious conservatives to run for public office.

"As everything sits right now with the races as they're forming for 2018, I don't intend to run for any office in 2018," the Ashland City senator said on WWTN's The Ralph Bristol Show. "I'll just stay a state senator and serve in that capacity."

The physician and former soldier also said that includes not running for the expected Sixth Congressional District vacancy in Tennessee as incumbent U.S. Rep. Diane Black, R-Gallatin, runs for governor.

But Green said he may run for U.S. Senate in 2020. Incumbent U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., is up for reelection then but hasn't said whether he will seek election to a fourth term.

Of course, Corker hasn't either although the coy former Chattanooga mayor has taken steps to hire top strategists for his expected bid. Meanwhile, the president of Americans for Prosperity-Tennessee, Andy Ogles, has been mulling a challenge to Corker for months.

This spring, Green withdrew his nomination by President Donald Trump for U.S Army Secretary following controversies over a series of statements and positions he had taken on various social issues over the years.

Green had been running for the 2018 GOP gubernatorial nomination prior to his nomination by Trump. After withdrawing he said he would not restart his campaign for governor.

Now, he said he is working to set up a nonprofit group with Judson Hill, a former state senator from Georgia.

"We're basically going to recruit people of faith to run for elected office," Green said.

As for his own political future, Green said "I think 2020 you'll see me back in the election cycle. Right now I have a real passion to make sure that people of faith have a future voice in America."

He later added "the U.S. Senate I think is going to be a potential opportunity for me later - not in 2018."

Right now, Green said, what's "probably the most heavy on my heart is what happened to me in Washington, D.C." as his nomination melted down amid outcries over past statements he had made about Muslims and the LGBT community.

Green has blasted critics as distorting his remarks.

"It was very clear there were people attacking me because of what I believe and what my faith is," Green said.

Because several other Trump nominees have undergone similar controversies. Green said he saw the need for a group to advocate for people of faith in public life.