Two of the top three Republican lawmakers in Tennessee declined to explicitly say this week whether they voted for the GOP’s Senate nominee, Rep. Marsha Blackburn.
Sen. Bob Corker, the retiring chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, whose Volunteer State seat Blackburn is running to fill, and term-limited Gov. Bill Haslam, each hinted that they voted for Blackburn over centrist Democratic candidate and former governor Phil Bredesen — but declined to use Blackburn’s name when answering reporters’ questions.
Corker told reporters in Nashville on Wednesday that he planned to vote early in his home city of Chattanooga, where he was previously mayor.
But he did not explicitly say whom he planned to vote for, even when questioned.
“I think you know, so, I’ll leave it at that,” Corker said, looking down at the floor, The Tennesseean reported.
When asked if that meant he would vote for Blackburn — whom he gave a hesitant endorsement earlier this year and has appeared at campaign events with since the spring — Corker said, “Yeah, I endorsed her early on.”
Gov. Bill Haslam was equally shy when queried by reporters about his vote on the most expensive Senate race in Tennessee history for an election that Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates Leans Republican.
The governor, who was criticized after declining to vote for President Donald Trump in 2016, cited “the privacy of the voting box” in declining to give a direct answer to reporters’ questions.
“I’m obviously a Republican, and I’ve voted Republican all my life,” Haslam said. “I’ve tried to just stay out of this, because I do think people need to protect, you know, the privacy of the voting box, but it’s pretty clear that I vote Republican.”
Haslam has appeared with Blackburn on her campaign trail, and his father, Jim Haslam II, is her campaign’s finance chairman.
In four polls of likely voters last month, Blackburn maintained an edge over Bredesen hovering between 4 and 9 percent.
That’s much closer than the margin of Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton in 2016, when the president defeated his Democratic opponent by 26 percent.
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