Blackburn announces bid for Tennessee Senate seat

Blackburn announces bid for Tennessee Senate seat
© Greg Nash

Rep. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnLawmakers press Apple, Google on data collection Election Countdown: Calls to abolish ICE test Dem candidates | First round of House GOP 'Young Guns' | How Tester is handling Trump's Montana visit | Dem candidate won't back Schumer as leader | Super PACs ramp up Missouri ad buys Senate GOP PAC books millions in red state ad spending MORE (R-Tenn.) will run for Senate in 2018, making her the likely front-runner to fill the seat of retiring GOP Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerWhat Trump’s NATO defense plan would mean for the US Overnight Health Care: Watchdog finds Tom Price improperly used funds on flights | Ex-Novartis CEO sent drug pricing proposal to Cohen | HHS staffers depart after controversial social media posts HHS staffers depart after controversial social media posts: report MORE.

The Tennessean broke the news of Blackburn's expected announcement on Thursday, less than an hour after Gov. Bill Haslam (R) announced he'd skip the race.

In her three-minute announcement video, first published by The Tennessean, Blackburn moves to establish herself as the most conservative candidate in a primary race likely to be decided by the party's right flank.

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The eight-term lawmakers describes herself as a "hard-core, card-carrying Tennessee conservative" that's proud of being "politically incorrect." She blasts the Senate as "totally dysfunctional and enough to drive you nuts" and calls the Republican majority's failure to repeal ObamaCare "a disgrace." 

"Too many Senate Republicans act like Democrats or worse. And that's what we have to change," Blackburn says. 

The ad goes on to tout her conservative credentials, recalling a fight to prevent a state income tax before she joined the House, her role leading a select committee investigating Planned Parenthood and noting that she has a concealed carry permit for a firearm she carries in her purse. 

She also frames herself as a stalwart defender of President Trump. 

"I believe our government spends too much, grows too much and is bankrupting our children's future. I believe in President Trump's immigration ban and I'll fight with him every step of the way to build that wall," she said. 

And Blackburn offers support for the president, who sparked controversy by blasting NFL players who don't stand for the national anthem in protest of racial injustice.

"I stand for the greatest country the world has ever known, I stand when the president walks in the room and yes, I stand when I hear 'The Star Spangled Banner,'" she says. 

With Haslam passing on a bid, Blackburn enters the race as the front-runner. She's a strong fundraiser who has about $3 million in her campaign account, has kept a relatively high profile in the House and is looked upon fondly by Breitbart News head Stephen Bannon and his allies, who have been looking to back a candidate in the race. 

Currently, conservative activist Andy Ogles is the only major candidate in the GOP primary. But Blackburn has already begun to clear the field, as state Sen. Mark Green, who had been mulling a Senate bid, has decided to run for Blackburn's congressional seat instead.

Iraq War veteran and attorney James Mackler is the leading candidate on the Democratic side, while Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke is also looking into running.

This story was updated at 12:47 p.m.