ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke speaks with editors of the Times Free Press at the newspaper in this 2018 file photo.

Updated at 7:07 p.m. on Friday, June 14, 2019, with more information.

Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke announced Friday that he will not run for U.S. Senate in 2020.

Berke told the Times Free Press that he is committed to serving out the remainder of his term as mayor.

"Over the course of the last several months, I have been talking to people and thinking about the Senate race, but I have 22 months left in office [as mayor of Chattanooga] and there are important things left to be done, and I want to give my undivided attention to this role." Berke said. "I think there are really significant issues nationally that impact us here locally, but right now, I need to focus on doing the job I was elected to do locally."

Berke, who was elected in 2012 after serving two terms in the Tennessee State Senate, said he has "no idea" what he will do at the end of his two-term stint as mayor, but that his main concern is finishing strong.

"My goal is to focus on the things that are before me right now," he added.

Berke's announcement comes as one of the first definitive statements about 2020 from potential candidates.

The only officially announced Democratic candidate so far is James Mackler of Nashville, a former prosecutor and defense attorney who served in the Iraq war.

"I've always known Mayor Berke to be a public servant who puts what's best for Chattanooga first, both as mayor and in the state legislature, and I hope to earn his support," Mackler said Friday.

Two years ago, Mackler was running for the Senate seat then held by retiring Republican Bob Corker, of Chattanooga. But he bowed out of the contest after former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen entered the race. Republican Marsha Blackburn wound up winning what became the most expensive Senate campaign in Tennessee history with 54.7% of the vote.

This time around, Bredesen has endorsed Mackler.

On the Republican side, Nashville orthopedic trauma surgeon Manny Sethi announced earlier in June that he was seeking the GOP nomination to succeed Alexander, unveiling a campaign team that includes former Tennessee Republican Party chairman Chris Devaney of Lookout Mountain, who figured prominently in Republican Gov. Bill Lee's 2018 campaign.

In a statement, Sethi said "everyone has to make their own decision on whether they should enter this race. I'm focused on winning the Republican primary, but I would have enjoyed a spirited general election with the mayor."

Many in the GOP are looking at what former Republican Gov. Bill Haslam, a billionaire who served two terms as Tennessee's chief executive, intends to do.

For several months, Haslam has been weighing a decision whether to run for the seat held by Alexander, a longtime family friend.

If Haslam doesn't run, many are looking at Bill Hagerty, Haslam's one-time economic commissioner, current U.S. ambassador to Japan and a co-founder of a successful private equity investment firm, possibly entering the race.

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

Contact Sarah Grace Taylor at staylor@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6416. Follow her on Twitter @sarahgtaylor.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT