Republican Mae Beavers says she's stepping down after 14 years in the state Senate to focus on her run for governor.
The Mt. Juliet lawmaker made the announcement at a Wednesday afternoon press conference, saying she couldn't continue to represent her district east of Nashville while simultaneously campaigning statewide. Beavers also used the occasion to take a few digs at her rivals and the Republican governor she aims to replace, whom she implied is too liberal.
"I think that the people of the state of Tennessee deserve for us to have a real shot at having a first conservative governor," she said. "And with the laws in Tennessee, it's hard for us to operate the campaign and hard for us to raise money."
By that, Beavers means state laws that let wealthy candidates write checks to their own campaigns and limit state legislators' ability to fundraise while in session. Beavers has far less cash than her Republican rivals in the governor's race, and she says the only way she can compete is to run full-time.
As of June 30 Beavers had raised only $36,000. Three other candidates for governor already had more than $1 million raised.
Beavers' strength, however, is that she's long been a favorite of tea party Republicans in Tennessee. She was also among the first public officials in the state to support Donald Trump's presidential bid.
She said some of her Republican opponents have contacted friends to ask if she'd consider getting out of the governor's race. One possibility would be for her to run for Congress now that U.S. Rep. Diane Black has jumped into the governor's race.
But Beavers said there's no chance she'll do that.
"Back in 2010, I could've run for that seat. I represented 10 out of the 15 counties," she said. "I'm simply not interested in joining the swamp in Washington."
Beavers said her resignation will go into effect September 1. That'll trigger special elections to fill her seat. Those could take place by the end of the year.