President Donald Trump tweeted Friday that Bill Hagerty is entering the U.S. Senate race in Tennessee.
Hagerty is currently the U.S. ambassador to Japan.
It’s an unusual launch to a new campaign, but it almost certainly gives Hagerty a running start in a state that has valued the president’s endorsements.
Trump was a vocal supporter of Marsha Blackburn during her successful campaign for U.S. senator.
Tennessee loving Bill Hagerty, who was my Tennessee Victoy Chair and is now the very outstanding Ambassador to Japan, will be running for the U.S. Senate. He is strong on crime, borders & our 2nd A. Loves our Military & our Vets. Has my Complete & Total Endorsement!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 12, 2019
Hagerty has not made any announcement yet himself. The ambassador last tweeted yesterday about his travels in Japan.
Prior to taking the position overseas, Hagerty served as the state economic development commission under the admimistration of former Gov. Bill Haslam, and later as director of presidential appointments for Trump.
The president’s announcement comes a day after Haslam decided he would not be running for Senate.
'A Difficult Decision'
Haslam, who was openly contemplating a senate bid, had been quiet about his aspirations to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander after leaving the governor's office this year.
But, in a statement released Thursday morning, Haslam said running for U.S. Senate was not his calling.
“There is no question that this is an important time in our nation’s history,” Haslam said. “This is a difficult decision because I have loved my time in public service, and I believe so deeply in the importance of our political process.”
Haslam’s decision opens the door to other Republicans to run. Many have been waiting on the two-term governor and former Knoxville mayor given his popularity and wealth, which would allow him to outspend virtually any candidate.
U.S. Rep. Mark Green, who had also been speculated to run, said he doesn’t plan to leave the U.S. House.
“I’ve been honored and humbled by everyone asking me to run for the U.S. Senate,” Green said in a statement to supporters Thursday. “As Camie and I have prayed about how to best use our time and resources, I do not plan to seek election to the U.S. Senate in 2020.”
Green has been in Congress since January. He said his decision could help Republicans win back control of the U.S House of Representatives.
Political Outsider Status
Besides Hagerty, Manny Sethi is the only other Republican candidate running for the seat. The Vanderbilt trauma surgeon who has not held political office announced his bid last month. He says he expects more conventional candidates to emerge.
"No matter what happened, there was going to be a choice between a person who comes from the private sector, an outsider, and you were going to have someone who was sort of involved in government for a long time," he tells WPLN. "I think that's what's going to happen."
This story was originally published on June 11, 2019, and was updated on June 12 at 4:45 p.m.