The Tennessee race to take the helm from retiring Senator Lamar Alexander (R) in November will feature candidates from GOP and Democratic primary wins Thursday who could perhaps not be more different.
Republican candidate Bill Hagerty, who beat out competition in the GOP primary Thursday, is a diehard Trump supporter who pledged his allegiance to MAGA and leveraged his endorsement from President Donald Trump against opponent Manny Sethi. Democratic opponent Marquita Bradshaw, is a Memphis-based Black activist and single mother, who delivered a surprising win over an opponent Thursday night favored by the Democratic establishment with a campaign budget of less than $10,000.
Hagerty, who served as Trump’s first ambassador to Japan, scored an endorsement from the President and beat out 14 other candidates in the GOP primary. In a competitive last lap of his race, Hagerty fended off Sethi, an orthopedic surgeon who proved a formidable challenger in the final stretch.
Sethi had earned the support of prominent conservatives like Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rand Paul (R-KY) . Sethi slammed Hagerty’s friendship with Senator Mitt Romney (UT) and criticized his support from the Tennessee Republican establishment of which Alexander is arguably an outgoing member.
In ads and speeches, Sethi referred to Hagerty as “Mitt Romney’s guy” even as Hagerty sought to distance himself from the Utah senator who has often been a foe of President Trump.
”I have a very special person to thank — I just got off the phone with him backstage,” Hagerty said in a victory speech from his hometown. “That’s President Donald Trump.”
Hagerty, who was joined on stage by Republican Senators Marsha Blackburn (TN) and Tom Cotton (AK) thanked the President “for being the inspiration to me.”
Stephanie Chivers, a longtime adviser to Alexander, told The New York Times that there wasn’t “any huge philosophical difference between Hagerty and Manny,” adding that she believed that Trump’s endorsement “made the difference.”
According to the Associated Press, Hagerty last month resigned from the board of a brokerage firm because the company said it supported the Black Lives Matter movement. Ironically, he will now come face to face with Bradshaw, a Black activist and the Democratic primary winner.
Polling still shows Tennessee is firmly Trump country, but in an upset victory in the Democratic primary, Bradshaw overcame establishment candidate, James Mackler, an army helicopter pilot who raised more than $2.1 million and boasted an endorsement from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
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