- Associated Press - Friday, June 2, 2017

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Republican state Sen. Mark Green announced Friday that he will not resume his bid for Tennessee governor after withdrawing from consideration as President Donald Trump’s pick for Army secretary.

The Ashland City physician in a statement acknowledged the difficult prospect of “electing a true conservative” in a crowded Republican field seeking to succeed term-limited Gov. Bill Haslam.

Green said he will remain in the state Senate while turning his attention to serving in what he called a “higher capacity” in Washington. He did not say whether that could include challenging Republican incumbents in Congress who are up for re-election next year, such as Sen. Bob Corker or Rep. Marsha Blackburn, or moving the short distance to the neighboring House district to run for Republican Rep. Diane Black’s seat if she runs for governor.

Green dropped his bid for Army secretary last month amid bipartisan criticism about his past comments on LGBT issues and Muslims. Green blamed the “liberal left” for his failure to be confirmed as Army secretary.

“They collude with the media to cast conservatives as hateful, stingy and mean while they partner with our enemies to weaken the nation,” he said.

Green is a West Point graduate and former Army physician who has heavily featured his military background in his political campaigns. He often cites a self-published memoir about a night he spent at the bedside of Saddam Hussein after the former Iraqi leader’s capture in 2003.

Republicans rejoiced when Green in 2002 defeated the Democratic incumbent in a closely-divided district anchored around Fort Campbell, home of the 101st Airborne Division.

But Green quickly ruffled feathers among his colleagues when he hired a national Republican consultant in his first year in office, and then set about booking keynote speeches at county Republican dinners across the state.

Long referred to as “Gov. Green” at the legislative office complex, it came as little surprise when Green became the first Republican to file papers to run for Tennessee governor in January, hiring Trump’s Tennessee campaign director to run his bid.

Green’s decision to bow out of the governor’s race comes after fellow state Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, announced that she would launch her own bid on Saturday.

Beavers had originally said she would run if Green went to the Pentagon, but she did not wait to hear whether Green would rejoin the race before making her own intentions official.

Beavers will join businessmen Randy Boyd of Knoxville and Bill Lee of Franklin among the Republican candidates who have officially entered the race. Others strongly considering a bid include U.S. Rep. Diane Black of Gallatin, state House Speaker Beth Harwell of Nashville and state Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris of Collierville.

Former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean is the only Democrat to officially join the race, but state House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh of Ripley is also considering a bid.

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