KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Tennessee politicians have begun reacting to the announcement by former Gov. Bill Haslam that he will not seek election to the U.S. Senate.
“Bill Haslam would be a terrific United States senator, but he has served Tennessee well and unselfishly for 15 years as governor and as mayor of Knoxville, and I can completely understand his desire to take a different direction with his life,” Sen. Lamar Alexander, R–Tenn., who does not plan to seek reelection.
Alexander’s decision announced in December has created interest and speculation on who might seek the office. As a popular two-term governor, Haslam was thought to be among the favorites.
But, writing in a newspaper column, Haslam said: “While I think serving in the United States Senate would be a great privilege and responsibility, I have come to the conclusion that it is not my calling for the next period of my life.”
Tennessee Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, said: ” “Bill Haslam served with distinction as Mayor of Knoxville and was an outstanding governor of this state.
“Had he chosen that path, he would have made a superior United States Senator. As governor, he helped secure Tennessee’s reputation as the greatest state in the nation to live, work and retire. Under his leadership, Tennessee improved dramatically in the areas of education, safety and fiscal responsibility.
“His careful, deliberative and disciplined decision on this Senate race should serve as a benchmark for all who consider public service. I congratulate he and Crissy on a continued, well-earned break from politics. I know they will both continue to serve our state as private citizens and I look forward to their contributions.”
East Tennessee Republican Congressman Chuck Fleischmann said Haslam “is an outstanding public servant who has served the people of Tennessee with integrity and distinction. I wish him the greatest success in his future endeavors.”
A spokesperson for Rep. Tim Burchett, R-Knoxville, says the congressman is disappointed Haslam isn’t running for Senate. He says it’s “too early to decide” whether Rep. Burchett will run for the seat. Burchett, a former Knox County mayor, is serving in his first term in Congress.
Another East Tennessee congressman, U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., said: “Bill Haslam was a phenomenal Governor of Tennessee for eight years and would have made a wonderful Senator.
“After serving Tennessee with honor, working tirelessly to make it the best it can be, I understand his decision. I wish Bill, Chrissy and their family the best. Our party has big shoes to fill in Sen. Alexander, and I’m confident we will find a worthy successor.”