In a major recruiting coup, Democrats have successfully recruited popular former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen to run for the Senate seat that is currently occupied by Bob Corker (R). Corker has announced that he does not plan to run for re-election in 2018 after a series of high-profile spats with President Donald Trump.
Bredesen’s entry promises to make the race in a deeply Republican state a competitive one. Bredesen served as mayor of Nashville from 1991 through 1999, and governor of Tennessee from 2002 through 2010.
Bredesen ran as a moderate Democrat in his first gubernatorial race, and his successful reputation as Nashville mayor and business background allowed him to run with unusual strength in heavily Republican areas of the state. Also, Republican candidate Van Hilleary struggled to distance himself from the deeply unpopular outgoing Republican Gov. Don Sundquist, and Bredesen won a narrow victory.
In his first term, he was widely credited with helping to fix the fiscal crises in the state budget by reducing costs associated with the state’s Medicaid expansion program, known as TennCare. He cruised to re-election in 2006, garnering more votes than any gubernatorial candidate in Tennessee history and sweeping all 95 counties against Republican opponent Jim Bryson.
Bredesen remains popular with Tennessee voters. A recent Middle Tenessee State University poll shows that Bredesen is viewed almost exactly as favorably in the state as Republican front-runner Rep. Marsha Blackburn, and much more favorably than all the other potential Republican candidates.
Bredesen has been mentioned as a potential Senate candidate before, but has repeatedly passed on invitations to run for the office, until this year. In a video announcing his candidacy, Bredesen again sounded centrist themes, touting his experience as governor and his ability to work across party lines.