Confirmed: Never Trumper Bill Haslam Is Lobbying President Trump Not to Endorse Diane Black in Tennessee Governor’s Race

Bill Haslam, Donald Trump, Diane Black

The New York Times confirmed on Friday a story first reported in The Tennessee Star that officials with the Republican Governors Association (RGA) are lobbying President Trump not to endorse Rep. Diane Black (R-TN-06) in the August 2 Republican primary for governor of Tennessee.

“R.G.A. officials are lobbying the White House to keep Mr. Trump out of that race [in Kansas where Kris Kobach is running for governor against GOP establishment supported Jeff Colyer], where they are backing Mr. Colyer. They would also prefer he remain on the sidelines in Tennessee, where Representative Diane Black has been hoping to win Mr. Trump’s backing in the crowded August primary to succeed Mr. Haslam, who is term-limited,” the Times reported.

Multiple sources tell The Star that Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, who was the most vocal Never Trumper in the country up until the day Donald Trump was elected president on November 8, 2016 and serves as the chairman of the RGA, is aggressively lobbying the president directly to keep him from endorsing Black. Black played a key role as chairman of the House Budget Committee in passing the president’s landmark Tax Cuts and Jobs Acts in December, the signature accomplishment of his administration to date.

“The reason offered by the RGA as to why President Trump shouldn’t endorse Trump conservatives like Black in Tennessee and Kobach in Kansas is ludicrous,” said a long-time and current high-ranking RGA official.

“What makes it particularly outrageous is that the effort to deny Trump endorsements to Trump conservatives is coming from the most notorious anti-Trump governor, Bill Haslam, who declared he would never vote for Trump and who called on Trump to withdraw from the race in 2016 just weeks before he was elected president,” the official added.

The official went on to say that “a growing number of funders and members of the RGA are furious that Haslam and his staff are abusing the RGA by trying to turn it into his personal political operation to defeat conservative candidates such as Diane Black and replace them with other never-Trumpers such as Randy Boyd — another never-Trumper who is being backed by Bill Haslam.”

“It’s an insult to the President and a corruption of the RGA,” the RGA official concluded.

“During last year’s presidential primary season, Boyd said supporting Trump “would be anathema to me.” However, once Trump was nominated, Boyd distanced himself from his earlier remarks,” as The Star reported earlier.

In December, Boyd brought President Trump’s Republican primary rival, Jeb Bush, in to the state to host a fundraiser for him in Nashville.

The Boyd campaign has responded to critics of his prior comments about President Trump by noting that he voted for Trump in the 2016 election and “supports President Trump’s efforts to fix all that’s so badly broken in Washington,” as The Star reported.

Publicly, Gov. Haslam has claimed that the RGA has been “non-partisan,” but multiple sources tell The Star that, in fact, Haslam has corrupted the organization he chairs to be nothing more than a political arm of Haslam’s own establishment Republican “Never Trumper” political philosophy, designed to reward his personal friends and punish his personal enemies.

“The president obviously has very strong feelings about his form of politics,” Haslam told the Times on Friday.

“You’ve seen them engage in primaries where traditionally the White House has not engaged. Our focus at the R.G.A. has always been on making certain we can win the general election,” Haslam added.

Trump’s endorsement of gubernatorial candidates in GOP primaries has a huge and favorable impact.

In Florida, for instance, his endorsement of Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) has propelled DeSantis to a significant lead over GOP establishment favored Adam Putnam.

Similarly, in Michigan, his endorsement of Bill Schuette over GOP establishment favored Brian Calley has put Schuette in front.

Haslam is clearly worried that an endorsement of Diane Black by President Trump in the the tight three way race for the GOP gubernatorial nomination in Tennessee will tip the balance in favor of Black.

Black, Knoxville businessman Randy Boyd, who served in Haslam’s administration, and Williamson County businessman Bill Lee are locked in a hard fought race for the GOP nomination for governor. The outcome remains fluid just one week and five days before election day. Many pundits now believe that the race is so close that any of these three could win the nomination. A number of private polls show that these top three candidates are all within five points of each other.

All recent polls show that another candidate, Tennessee Speaker of the House Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) is in a distant fourth place in the Republican gubernatorial primary race.

The Star contacted Gov. Haslam’s office to confirm or deny reports that he is directly lobbying President Trump not to endorse Rep. Diane Black.

“You need to reach out to the RGA for comment on this,” a spokesperson for Gov. Haslam told The Star late Saturday morning.



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8 Thoughts to “Confirmed: Never Trumper Bill Haslam Is Lobbying President Trump Not to Endorse Diane Black in Tennessee Governor’s Race”

  1. Brian

    Question. If Diane black when’s the primary do you think she can win against the Democratic contender?

  2. […] Haslam is a noted Never Trumper, who tried to get Trump not to endorse Diane Black, a strong Trump supporter, in the upcoming GOP […]

  3. Stuart I. Anderson

    Yes fellow conservatives, I know you don’t like what’s going on, you’ve never liked what’s going on, but I ask you “what the heck are you going to do about it?” How about this – WAIT, ADVOCATE, UNIFY. WAIT until election day to vote. ADVOCATE for your favorite candidate in the gubernatorial Republican primary right up to election day. UNIFY behind whichever candidate has the best chance of defeating Randy! Boyd.

    I haven’t voted and I don’t intend to vote before August 2nd. This article about the activity of out centrist governor in favor of his chosen successor to give us eight more years of Haslam albeit with Randy! Boyd as governor makes me an even more enthusiastic advocate for Diane Black. On August 2nd I will evaluate the polls for the last time then go and cast my vote for whoever has the most support who isn’t named Randy! so we end up with ANYBODY BUT BOYD.

  4. Dave Vance

    And Trump would listen to Haslam or the RGA why? If Trump wants to endorse somebody he will. Could it be that he hasn’t endorsed Diane because he does’t buy her story that she wasn’t part of the Sea Island stop Trump plot in 2016? He did call her out by name for that. Guess we’ll see pretty soon but I have heard rumors of an endorsement pending for months now and it hasn’t happened yet!

  5. Ralph

    Diane Black has much more in common with Randy Boyd than Bill Lee does, and that’s why more voters are turning toward Bill Lee – his campaign is showing positive momentum and that has the big government candidates, Boyd and Black both, on the attack.

  6. Wolf Woman

    Haslam is the puppet master and pulls the strings that make La Raza Randy move and speak. If LRR is elected, it will be an extended term for Haslam and a sad day for the good people of Tennessee.

    1. Rosine Ghawji

      DONALD Trump has the memory of an elephant He does not need Bill Haslam to tell him what to do He knows exactly what is going on .Bill Haslam is not an idiot either He never supported Trump and now he would tell him what to do Give me a breakRo

  7. Tregonsee

    Haven’t been able to decide between Lee and Black, until now. Thanks to Haslam’s “endorsement, ” it will be Black.