- Associated Press - Thursday, January 5, 2017

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Republican state Sen. Mark Green is the first potential gubernatorial candidate to take a formal step toward entering the race to succeed term-limited Gov. Bill Haslam in 2018.

Green met a key requirement for candidates seeking to raise or spend campaign money by naming accountant Bob Yates as his political treasurer in a state Registry of Election Finance filing on Wednesday.

Shortly after Green was elected to his second Senate term in November, the former Army physician from Ashland City announced a 60-day listening tour as he pondered a bid for higher office.

That tour is scheduled to end on Tuesday - the same day a fundraising ban starts for sitting lawmakers during the legislative session - so the timing of his filing opens a narrow window for donations.

Other Republicans considering gubernatorial bids include U.S. Rep. Diane Black of Gallatin, state economic development commissioner Randy Boyd of Knoxville, state House Speaker Beth Harwell of Nashville and state Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris of Collierville.

Potential Democratic candidates include former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, real estate investor Bill Freeman of Nashville and state House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh of Ripley.

Green sponsored legislation last year seeking to do away with handgun-carry rules, arguing that more people need to be armed to defend against “lone-wolf terrorists.”

“The armed citizenry is really the only last defense we have,” Green said before his bill was defeated in a Senate committee in March.

About 582,000 Tennesseans have met the background check and training requirements to hold current state-issued permits to carry handguns in public, according to the state Safety Department. The state denied nearly 3,300 permit applications last year, and suspended or revoked about 2,400 permits because of criminal charges or orders of protection.

Green pre-filed several bills this week that would likely become part of a gubernatorial campaign platform. They include measures seeking to lower corporate taxes, make it a hate crime to kill a police officer and allow anyone over age 65 to opt out of jury duty.

Green also wants to decrease the maximum amount of state welfare benefits a family can receive per year. The senator told The Tennessean newspaper that he wants to reduce that cap from about $54,000 to $43,000.

Green told The Tennessean that he has hired President-elect Donald Trump’s state campaign director Darren Morris to manage his bid for governor. Green added that while he considers his decision to run “final,” he won’t make a formal announcement until after the Legislature adjourns.

“I don’t want the session to be clouded by my run for governor,” he said.

Yates is a managing partner with the Thurman Campbell Group accounting firm in Clarksville, where he has served as president of the Downtown Kiwanis Club and Clarksville Country Club and as chairman of the city’s Natural Gas Acquisition Corp. and its audit committee.

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