Tennessee Senator Bob Corker says he will not seek another term. In an announcement released Tuesday afternoon, the two-term Republican says he never expected to stay in Washington more than 12 years.
Even at the end of his first term, he said he had difficulty deciding whether to run for reelection because of gridlock and partisanship in Congress.
"I had to think long and hard about attempting to do what I'm doing again," he told the Goodlettsville Rotary Club in 2012. "You have to ask yourself, is it worth a grown man's time to be up there in this scenario where people aren't trying to accomplish anything? They're just trying to show division."
In a statement, Corker says his decision to retire has become more complicated now that he has “gained influence.” Corker is the chair of the powerful foreign relations committee and was considered for several spots in the Trump Administration, including Secretary of State.
The former Chattanooga mayor has been seen as a relative moderate whose embrace of President Trump surprised many last year. But that relationship has been on the rocks, making the chances that he'd seek a third term less likely.
Tea Party Republicans have long been critical of Corker, and his praise for Trump during the campaign didn't seem to win them over. Then, their skepticism seemed to be borne out this spring, when Corker castigated the Trump administration as being in a "downward spiral."
Polls already showed Corker's approval rating as being right around 50 percent — low for an incumbent facing re-election. And Breitbart chief and former White House advisor Steve Bannon was said to have Corker on his short-list of targets. So for Corker it would have been a difficult campaign.
Now, he says he'll focus solely on the job of senator, where he has been pressing for Congress to deal with the difficult task of reining in ballooning entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security.
“The most important public service I have to offer our country could well occur over the next 15 months," Corker says in his retirement statement. "I want to be able to do that as thoughtfully and independently as I did the first 10 years and nine months of my Senate career."
His announcement could shuffle the deck on races down the 2018 ballot.
Corker's seat could draw some of the biggest names in Tennessee. There's speculation that Congressman Marsha Blackburn or even Congressman Diane Black might jump into the race, though a spokesman says she is "100 percent committed" to her campaign for governor. A spokesperson for Blackburn says she'll take a look at the possibility of running for Senate over the next week.
The current governor, Bill Haslam, has been cagey about his political future. So perhaps running for Senate is something he'd consider.
Rutherford County Republican Joe Carr, a former state lawmaker who challenged Sen. Lamar Alexander in 2014, is weighing another run.
And then there's state Sen. Mark Green of Clarksville, President Trump's failed pick to be Army secretary. He might run for Senate — or perhaps jump into another race as the ramifications of Corker's retirement trickle down.
So far Williamson County Republican Andrew Ogles and Democrat James Mackler are the only candidates to announce for certain they're in the race for Senate. The deadline is in the spring.
Correction: This post originally misstated whether Rutherford County Republican Joe Carr has declared he will run for Senate. He has not. It also omitted Williamson County Republican Andrew Ogles, who has formally declared he will run for Senate.