Corker draws first primary challenger

Corker draws first primary challenger
© Keren Carrion

Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerBannon: McConnell 'picking up his game' because of our 'insurgent movement' State Dept. spokeswoman acknowledges 'morale issue' The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (R-Tenn.) has drawn his first Republican challenger, days after allies of President Trump threatened to back a primary challenge in retribution for Corker's critical comments about Trump's ability to govern. 

Andy Ogles, the head of the Tennessee chapter of the Charles and David Koch-funded conservative group Americans for Prosperity, kicked off his campaign Thursday. In a statement announcing his bid, Ogles blasted Republican senators for letting Trump down.

"Republicans who promised to govern as conservatives if we would just ‘give them a majority’ are letting us down the most, including our Senators from Tennessee," he said in a statement. 

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Ogles pitched himself as a defender of Trump's call to "drain the swamp," criticizing Congress for being "more focused on providing amnesty to illegals to placate so-called Dreamers while refusing to build the wall and secure the American Dream for American citizens."

"As long as [Trump] has to rely upon career politicians more focused on preserving their own power rather than empowering the American people we will find ourselves short of where we want to be," Ogles said. 

“We will not change what we are seeing IN Washington until we send new, strong conservative representatives TO Washington. Our problem isn’t the shortage of Republicans in the Senate, it is the shortage of the RIGHT Republicans in the Senate.”

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Ogles is the first Republican to announce a challenge to Corker, the powerful chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. A longtime businessman, Corker served a term as Chattanooga's mayor in the early 2000s before winning his Senate seat in 2006. 

But while Corker is expected to receive strong support from establishment Republicans, Trump allies on the party's right flank have been fuming since he told reporters that Trump "has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful."

Those comments particularly frustrated former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon and allies at Great America PAC, a group that's floating challenges to incumbents who they believe aren't loyal to Trump's agenda. While the group is eying a challenge in Tennessee, they have not coalesced around a candidate yet.

Corker recently floated the possibility that he could retire instead of running for reelection.