Republican U.S. Rep. Diane Black of Gallatin, widely believed to be eyeing a run for governor in 2018, joined a roomful of Knoxville-area politicians to “press the flesh” at Vol Market #3, and would neither confirm or deny such an interest when asked, reports the News Sentinel.
Black said Friday she was only in town to see her grandson play in the University of Tennessee Pride of The Southland Marching Band during the football game against South Carolina on Saturday.
…When asked if her visit might be an early campaign stop with an eye toward the 2018 gubernatorial race, Black said: “I’m just here to see my good friend Tim Burchett right now. He asked some of his friends to come by, and I’m enjoying meeting them.”
The two previously served in the Tennessee General Assembly together… Among some of the gathered were Knox County Commissioners Randy Smith and Jeff Ownby, Trustee Ed Shouse, plenty of people running for local office, and one notable visitor from Nashville — Tom Ingram.
Ingram has been an adviser for Haslam’s campaigns, a former chief of staff for Sen. Lamar Alexander and recently backed Jeb Bush’s effort to win the GOP presidential nomination in Tennessee.
Black, meanwhile, is on the shortlist of Republicans who have been considered in some statewide political circles to be among those seeking the 2018 gubernatorial bid.But on Friday she was just in town to meet some of Burchett’s friends, she maintained, and to watch her grandson play in the band.
Burchett, for his part, addressed the very rally-like lunch at Vol Market #3 more directly.
“We’re political animals here,” he said. “Everybody knows the game.”
…“Anyone can raise a potful of money, but if they want to talk to voters, then that’s my base,” he said, listing off the gathered. “You got preachers and firemen and business people, and even Tom Ingram showed up.”
When asked whether he thought Black was seeking another elected office, Burchett speculated a little.
“She’s made a name for herself,” he said. “She’s fiscally conservative and she’s well-spoken. We could be well-served by some like her, whatever she decides … I don’t know, she’s probably just testing the waters.”
Note: Last month, Black was speaking to Republicans in Sullivan County. Previous post, HERE.