NASHVILLE — Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke is confirming reports he's weighing a Democratic bid for the U.S. Senate seat held by U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., a former Chattanooga mayor who announced Tuesday he would not seek re-election.
"I've been hearing from Tennesseans who want to see progress instead of stalemate, unity rather than division, and a leader with a proven record of accomplishment," Berke said in a statement after reports in The New York Times he was mulling a race following Corker's announcement.
"[In] coming weeks, I'll be talking with my family and people around the state to determine how I can best serve our community," Berke said.
A former state senator, Berke is in his second and final term. He has long harbored statewide ambitions, but at this point, there is already one official Democratic candidate, Nashville attorney and Iraq war veteran James Mackler.
Three other Nashville Democrats are also exploring running now that Corker, who was expected to face a tough GOP primary, has said he isn't running.
The Nashville Post today reported that state Sen. Jeff Yarbro, D-Nashville, and state Rep. John Ray Clemmons, D-Nashville, have confirmed they're giving the contest a look-see.
Meanwhile, The Tennessean newspaper in Nashville reported that multi-millionaire businessman Bill Freeman, who spent $4.5 million on an unsuccessful Nashville mayoral bid, is weighing running.
Berke, 49, served in the Tennessee Senate from 2007 to 2012. When his district was dramatically changed by Republicans during legislative redistricting, he didn't seek reelection, instead turning his focus to running for Chattanooga mayor.
He was elected in 2013 to a four-year term and re-elected in 2017.
The latter contest drew criticisms from opponents who said Berke still had his eye on statewide office.
In 2016, Berke was engulfed in an uproar last when Bobby Stone, the husband of his then-top aide Lacie Stone, charged his wife was having an affair with Berke.
The mayor strongly denied the allegation which Stone made when he was arrested on domestic violence charges. Lacie Stone called the allegations bogus as well.
Prosecutors wound up dropping the case after determining that Stone had not been read his Miranda rights to remain silent before police interviewed him and also said Lacie Stone had made "inconsistent" statements about their altercation.