Political notebook: Haslam says will decide soon on 2020 U.S. Senate bid

Political notebook: Haslam says will decide soon on 2020 U.S. Senate bid

June 17th, 2019 by Andy Sher in Local Regional News

Gov. Bill Haslam listens to a speaker during a visit to the campus of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018, in Chattanooga, Tenn. Gov. Haslam released the fifth annual report by the Employment First Task Force during the visit, which shows the task force's efforts to increase employment for people with disabilities.

Gov. Bill Haslam listens to a speaker during...

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

NASHVILLE — Former Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam said he expects to decide soon whether he will run in 2020 for the U.S. Senate seat now held by fellow Republican Lamar Alexander, who is retiring at the end of his third term.

"I'm going to decide in the next two or three weeks," Haslam told reporters Saturday night while attending the Tennessee Republican Party's annual fundraiser, the Statesmen's Dinner. "But that's really all I got [to say]."

Nashville trauma surgeon and Republican Manny Sethi has officially announced he is running.

U.S. Rep. Mark Green, R-Tennessee, meanwhile, told reporters Saturday night that he continues to weigh "seriously" a bid, saying his decision won't be made on whether Haslam does or doesn't run.

"No, not at all," Green said. "Again, who you're running against isn't the reason to make a decision like that."

Green, a physician, military veteran and former state senator elected just last year to Congress, noted he's getting daily encouragement to run. He said his decision will "be about where I can serve. And it may be the House, it may be the Senate. Who knows? That question I'm always asking [is], 'God, where do you want me?'"

Meanwhile, there was more clarity on the Democratic side of the Senate race last week after Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke announced he would not seek the seat. That leaves the field open to already-announced candidate James Mackler, an attorney and Iraq war veteran.

 

Bill Brock honored

During the GOP's Statesmen event, former U.S. Sen. Bill Brock was given the Howard Baker Lifetime Achievement Award, presented by U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn.

Republican Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, the state Senate speaker, called Brock "a true statesman."

A Lookout Mountain native, Brock, now 88, served four terms in Congress during the 1960s before defeating Democratic Sen. Albert Gore Sr. in 1970. Brock served a single Senate term before losing to Democrat Jim Sasser in the national post-Watergate rout of Republicans in 1976 elections.

Brock later served as chairman of the Republican National Committee before being named U.S. trade representative. He now lives in Maryland, where in 1994 he won the GOP Senate primary but lost the general election.

The GOP annual fundraiser was held at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville. Party Chairman Scott Golden said an estimated 1,200 people attended the event that raised $600,000 to $650,000 for the party's coffers.

Serving as keynote speaker was Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Meanwhile, Tennessee Democrats this coming Saturday will hold their annual fundraiser, the Three Star Dinner. U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Arizona, will be the keynote speaker.

 

Sethi taps Devaney for top Senate campaign post

Sethi, who announced his Senate candidacy earlier this month, has named former state GOP chairman Chris Devaney of Lookout Mountain as his campaign chairman.

Before heading the state GOP from 2009 to 2015, Devaney had worked for then-U.S. Sens. Fred Thompson and later Bob Corker of Chattanooga in addition to a stint with then -U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm, R-Texas.

When Devaney left the state GOP, it was to become executive director of the Children's Nutrition Program of Haiti, a nonprofit working to prevent child malnutrition and help children suffering from it.

Devaney in 2017 got involved in Republican Bill Lee's successful 2018 gubernatorial effort as his campaign manager and was named a special assistant in the Lee administration in January.

In an interview, Devaney said he's known Sethi for more than a decade, meeting him through Dr. Mitchell Mutter of Chattanooga. Mutter took them on a trip to Haiti and got both Devaney and Sethi involved in the Children's Nutrition Program.

He recalled how the trio visited a woman dying of tuberculosis and how Sethi and Mutter stepped in to help the infant.

"I really saw Manny in action there and said, 'there's something special about this guy,'" Devaney said. "He's compassionate. He puts other people first, and he's from rural Tennessee. He cares deeply about people in Tennessee."

He said he also has "always known him as a conservative, somebody who always does the right thing. He has the makings to be a really good legislator and a great U.S. senator."

Devaney said he later served on the board of Healthy Tennessee, a nonprofit group founded by Sethi and his wife, Maya. The group hosts preventative health screening clinics across the state in low-income urban neighborhoods and small towns.

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