RUTHERFORD COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) – The event billed as a “kickoff” to the 2018 governor’s race drew four of the top Republican contenders Thursday night with questions remaining about who else might join the race.
While former state economic development director, Randy Boyd, and Franklin businessman, Bill Lee, worked the crowd of 250 donors at Rutherford County’s Reagan Day dinner as the two announced candidates, 6th District Congressional member Diane Black and State Senator Mark Green were there to join in a question-and-answer session about Tennessee’s future.
Green announced for the governor’s seat earlier this year before suspending his campaign while he was considered for Secretary of the Army.
The Montgomery County lawmaker withdrew his name as questions were raised about his comments concerning LGBT and Islam were revealed, but in briefly addressing the issue Thursday, Green called there were “strategic lies” about his record from the left and Democrats.
Green told News 2 he hopes to make a decision about running by Memorial Day.
Rep. Black has long said she has had people approach her about running, but for now she has a job that people sent her to Washington which she listed as “repeal Obamacare, tackle the debt and do tax reform.”
As for running, the congressman added, “I will make my decision about when I complete my job in Washington.”
Many observers behind the scenes expect her to eventually make an announcement that she will run.
Lee had the most visible prop at the event.
His smoky grey, trimmed in orange bus emblazoned with his name, was strategically placed so everyone entering the Reagan Day event at the Stones River Country Club in Murfreesboro could see it.
Lee told News 2 he has hit 27 of the 95 Tennessee counties in that bus and it’s part of his campaign to hit all the counties in 95 days.
“I thought for 20 years about how to make life better for my 1,100 workers and now I have decided to see what it’s like to make life better for six-and-a-half million people,” he told News 2.
Boyd’s campaign seemed to have someone in every corner of the event with a sticker on simply saying his name.
The Knoxville native recently garnered endorsements from 22 East Tennessee mayors but hopes his message will resonate statewide.
“We are going to talk about our central message which is making Tennessee the state of opportunity, opportunity for education, opportunity for better jobs, opportunity for everyone,” he told News 2.
Three possible candidates who had been scheduled to speak withdrew from the Reagan Day event.
Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell had a family emergency, while state senators Mark Norris and Mae Beavers cited last minute conflicts in their districts.
All three are expected to soon make decisions about running.