- Associated Press - Friday, August 4, 2017

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - With less than a year to go before Tennessee’s Republican primary, U.S. Sen. Bob Corker still won’t say whether he plans to seek a third term.

The former Chattanooga mayor deflected questions about his future before the state Republican Party’s annual fundraiser on Thursday evening.

“I don’t know,” Corker said. “I’m busy working, you know?”

Corker was first elected to the Senate in 2006. That contest, against former U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Jr., D-Memphis, was the state’s most expensive on record, with the nominees spending a combined $34 million. Corker had made a fortune in construction and spent about $4 million of his own money to reach the Senate, where he was the only freshman Republican that year.

Corker has since risen to chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, becoming a regular fixture on broadcast news shows.

Pressed by reporters about when he’ll make up his mind, Corker said: “At some point - we’ll see.”

“I’m not elusive,” he said. “I’m just doing my job.”

No major Republican has announced a challenge to Corker in the Aug. 2, 2018 primary, although some GOP groups have long targeted him as insufficiently conservative.

Some tea party activists would prefer state Sen. Mark Green of Ashland City, who abandoned his gubernatorial bid following his withdrawal as President Donald Trump’s nominee as Army secretary. Andy Ogles, the state director of Americans for Prosperity, the Koch brothers’ political advocacy group, declined address speculation he may run.

Corker appeared unconcerned about potential challengers.

“You’ll have to talk to them,” he said.

Nashville attorney and former Army helicopter pilot James Mackler is running for the Democratic nomination, raising about $451,000 in campaign donations. He had about $255,000 cash on hand in his most recent report, while Corker had a $6.6 million balance in his campaign account.

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