Citing a Facebook post on Friday by a former chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported on Sunday that Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) says she will be running for the Republican nomination for governor in 2018:
For well over a year, Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell has held her cards close over whether she will seek the 2018 GOP nomination for governor.
But the soft-spoken Nashville representative appears to have exposed her hand to former Tennessee Republican Party chairwoman Susan Richardson Williams, who dished Friday in a Facebook post.
“Just got a call from Speaker Beth Harwell to let me know she is running for Governor next year too!” wrote Williams. “Let the games begin! Wow!”
Asked to elaborate, Williams said in an email she had “nothing more than [Harwell’s] call to let me know she was running” to share. “I congratulated her and said I was happy that we may have at least two women in the race. I have too many friends in this race!!!”
A Harwell spokesman did not respond to a Times Free Press email about Williams’ Facebook post Saturday.
“Hard to believe this was an attempt at a subtle, quiet roll-out,” one political insider tells The Tennessee Star.
“More likely an off-the-record chat gone wrong,” the insider says.
Whether intentional or inadvertent, the story is out in the public now, and it will be hard for Speaker Harwell to walk it back.
Knoxville businessman and former Tennessee Economic and Community Development Commissioner Randy Boyd has already announced his candidacy for governor.
Rep. Diane Black (R-TN) may also get in the race, as well as State Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville).
State Senator Mark Green has said he intends to formally announce after the end of the current session of the Tennessee General Assembly, but the New York Times and other outlets have recently reported he will be President Trump’s pick to become Secretary of the Army.
Should Green be nominated for Secretary of the Army, a post he would almost certainly accept, the GOP primary for governor will be devoid of a conservative candidate.
Black and Boyd have huge financial resources and would be able to spend up to $20 million each, if not more, to secure the nomination and a victory in the general election.
Neither Harwell nor Norris have the personal wealth of Black and Boyd.
Harwell is said to have about $1 million in her campaign funds. Norris has limited campaign resources and no proven ability to raise money state wide.
Among these five, only Green is considered to be conservative. Norris considers himself to be a conservative, but his full fledged support for Governor Haslam’s gas tax increase has disqualified him as a potential conservative champion in the field of Republican candidates for governor, in the eyes of most Tea Party and limited government activists in Tennessee–exactly the kind of Republicans who vote in primaries.
With the potential withdrawal of Green from the race, Tennessee conservatives are trying to find a viable candidate who could champion their cause should Dr. Green go to Washington.