NASHVILLE — Republican gubernatorial hopeful Diane Black this week released what her campaign calls the "first round" of a list of more than 360 elected officials, conservative activists and community leaders who have endorsed the U.S. representative in the 2018 Republican primary.
Her Hamilton County leadership team includes Chattanooga Tea Party founder and chairman Mark West, as well as two former state Republican representatives, Chris Clem and Bobby Wood. Also on the local team: Dr. Shawn Jones, Brian O'Shaughnessy and Jeanne Wood.
In a statement released by the campaign, West said, "this election is a choice about the future of our state. Do we want strong leadership to make sure Tennessee is a beacon of conservative policies and traditional values? Or do we want to join other states in going the way of liberal bastions like California?"
Black said her "focus, from day one of this campaign, has been on engaging with local officials and local communities, listening to them about the issues that they face every day." She added she feels honored "by the grassroots support in our state and look[s] forward to having this team fighting side by side with me to protect our Tennessee values."
One of Black's GOP rivals in the Aug. 2, 2018, GOP gubernatorial primary, Knoxville businessman and former commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development Randy Boyd, announced earlier this year he has racked up endorsements from 50 of the state's 95 county mayors, as well as dozens of city and town mayors.
Boyd's list includes Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger, Bradley County Mayor Gary Davis and Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland.
Black's Bradley County leadership list includes 10th Judicial District Attorney General Steve Crump. Also serving are Sarah Cantrell, Carrie Doyle and Ruby Thompson.
Other announced Black supporters statewide include more than 100 former and current elected officials, including city and county mayors, state legislators, DAs, county clerks, road supervisors and sheriffs, as well as current and former Republican Party officials at the state and local levels.
Black's campaign describes the four-term lawmaker from Middle Tennessee as "fiscally conservative, socially conservative, a proponent of strong National Defense and a bold Christian" who is a "strong believer in the importance of protecting our God-given liberties."
Former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales also endorsed Black and is heading a "law and order" coalition backing her.
"As the nation's former chief law enforcement official, I know that she's the right leader to address the serious challenges our state faces," Gonzales said in a statement.
A former White House counsel, Gonzales now serves as dean and Doyle Rogers Distinguished Professor of Law at Belmont University College of Law in Nashville.
Black and Boyd are among five GOP candidates competing in next year's GOP primary election.
Other announced Republican candidates in the 2018 GOP primary include former state Sen. Mae Beavers of Mt. Juliet, Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell of Nashville and Franklin businessman Bill Lee.
Former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and state House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh of Ripley are running for the Democratic nomination.
Current Gov. Bill Haslam, a Republican, is term limited.