Tennessee Senator and Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Bob Corker announced Tuesday that he will not be running for re-election in 2018.  “After much thought, consideration and family discussion over the past year, (wife) Elizabeth and I have decided that I will leave the United States Senate when my term expires at the end of 2018,” Corker said. “When I ran for Senate in 2006, I told people that I couldn’t imagine serving for more than two terms. Understandably, as we have gained influence, that decision has become more difficult.”

Corker hinted towards the possibility of resignation in early September, stating “I think everyone in the Volunteer State knows, as they did in 2012, that running for re-election has never been an automatic for me.”

Corker began as a businessman and mayor of Chattanooga before being elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006, beating out his Democratic opponent Harold Ford, Jr. by less than three percentage points. As Senator, Corker has been heavily involved in foreign policy and, recently, a harsh critic of President Donald Trump. In November 2016, Corker was reportedly “in the mix” for Secretary of State of Trump’s Cabinet, though the position was ultimately filled by Rex Tillerson. Since then, Corker’s mood towards Trump has shifted dramatically.

In August 2017, Corker slammed Trump’s response to the racist protests in Charlottesville, saying Trump “has not demonstrated he understands the character of this nation.” He went on to say that Trump has yet to exhibit “the stability nor some of the competence” necessary for success. Trump responded to Corker’s remarks via Twitter, saying “Strange statement by Bob Corker considering that he is constantly asking me whether or not he should run again in ’18. Tennessee not happy!”

Despite this, Trump reportedly encouraged Corker to run for a third term.

Corker’s retirement opens the door for prospective GOP candidates, with many (including former state representative Joe Carr and state senator Mark Green) already expressing their interest in running. Democrat James Mackler, a Nashville attorney and Iraq War veteran, has also announced plans to run.

“Serving the people of Tennessee in this capacity has been the greatest privilege of my life,” Corker stated. “And as I spent the month of August traveling across our great state, I was reminded that we live in a unique place full of people who care deeply about the direction of our country.”

Photo Credit: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

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