While giving money to Blackburn GOP Senate bid, Corker says he won't campaign against friend Bredesen

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker

JACKSON, Tenn. - While retiring U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., announced he's contributed to expected GOP nominee Marsha Blackburn, the Chattanoogan told a Washington magazine he won't be out campaigning in November against her opponent, Democrat and former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen.

"I certainly do not plan to be working against somebody who is a friend and who has served our state ably," Corker said of Bredesen, The National Journal reported Friday. "We've worked together to build a great state."

Corker noted that as state finance commissioner in the mid-1990s for then-Republican Gov. Don Sundquist, he worked with then-Nashville Mayor Bredesen to bring the NFL's Houston Oilers to Nashville, where the team is now known as the Tennessee Titans.

And in 2008, Corker, a former Chattanooga mayor first elected in 2006 to the Senate, and Bredesen, then governor, worked together again to help bring Volkswagen's auto assembly plant to Chattanooga.

"He [Bredesen] is a very substantial person," Corker told The National Journal. "And he no doubt will attract a lot of Republican votes."

"Look," Corker said in the interview. "I think Gov. Bredesen would be good at almost anything he put his mind to doing. He did a very good job in business, he did a very good job as mayor [of Nashville], he did a very good job as governor. He's been an outstanding public servant."

On a campaign swing in Jackson on Saturday, Bredesen said in a Times Free Press interview he "obviously was pleased" Corker won't be campaigning against him. "I appreciate that from him. And the feeling is mutual."

As for the Blackburn campaign's thoughts on Bredesen, they couldn't be much clearer.

"Phil Bredesen will be a solid vote for Chuck Schumer and Obama, Clinton-era liberal policies, and Tennesseans are not interested in that," campaign spokeswoman Abbi Sigler wrote in an emailed response to a request for comment.

Corker had gone through a lengthy process of deciding whether he would seek re-election to the Senate and had also given thought to running for governor. Last year, he at times became openly criticial of President Donald Trump.

He later announced he wouldn't run, then, at the urging of some Republicans, briefly re-considered, despite Blackburn having already declared for the seat. Corker soon decided he was standing by his original decision and would not get in.

"I think over the last couple of years, in particular, as he's sort of been working his way through the new world up in Washington, we've had several occassions to talk about that kind of stuff as well," Bredesen said. "To say he's been a personal friend, to me it always seems so bizarre that you can't be personal friends if you're on opposite sides of the politcal aisle or something like that."

Bredesen repeated previous commments that "I never would have gotten in the race" had Corker sought a third Senate term.

And Bredesen also confirmed a story that's made the rounds inside top Republican circles that at one point, when Corker was mulling running for governor, he gave Corker some advice.

"I mean, he asked me my advice about that," said Bredesen, who served two terms as governor, leaving office in early 2011. "I guess what I specifically told him was, if you want the job that's most fun, you ought to run for governor. And if you want the job that's probably most useful to the country today, stay where you are."

Contact Andy Sher at asher@timesfreepress.com or 615-255-0550. Follow him on Twitter @AndySher1.