U.S. Senate campaign

Woodson decides against U.S. Senate bid

As recently as last week, former state Sen. Jamie Woodson (R-Knoxville) was still mulling a bid for the U.S. Senate. No longer, The Tennessean’s Natalie Allison reports.

“I have been humbled and deeply honored by the recent and generous encouragement I have received to seek the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate,” Woodson said.

Woodson, who ran the education think tank SCORE after leaving office, said she and her husband, Bill, had “prayed about this season for our family and our country and how we might best serve,” before deciding against a bid.

Woodson first began contemplating a bid to succeed retiring U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Maryville) before President Donald Trump declared his support for Ambassador Bill Hagerty in a tweet. Hagerty made his first public appearance on Friday since winding down his diplomatic responsibilities in East Asia, but has yet to formally enter the race.

Nashville surgeon Manny Sethi announced his candidacy in June.

 

Hagerty makes first public appearance since return from Japan

Former U.S. Ambassador Bill Hagerty made his first public appearance since returning from Japan on Friday evening at state Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson’s annual barbecue fundraiser in Franklin.

Afterward, Hagerty sat down to discuss his plans regarding the U.S. Senate race with The Tennessee Journal and The Tennessean. 

Here is a transcript of the interview:

Q: What are your plans?

You know, first things first. I just wrapped up a tremendous stint as the U.S ambassador to Japan, and as I said out there, there’s no greater honor than to serve your nation in a position like this and being the president’s representative in a country that’s as large as Japan. The economy is the second-largest free market in the world there, and we have such tremendous intertwined relationships. We’ve got more military based in Japan than any other country, anyplace outside the United States.

It’s a great relationship, a strong relationship, one that’s very important to the president and one that’s important to all of us. So, a great experience, and a wonderful experience for my family, too. We had a terrific two or three-year experience there.

But we’re very happy to be back home now. We have new horizons ahead of us. We’re working on that right now. And I’ll be able to talk very soon about what we’re going to do.

Q: The president sort of let the cat out of the bag, didn’t he? Is it a done deal?

I’m very honored by the president’s tweet. And I just need to put some componentry in place before I can really address what that tweet was about. But I was very honored to be recognized.

Q: As of when are you officially no longer in the diplomatic service?

I’m just an unemployed citizen right now.

Q: After the president’s tweet, you put in your paperwork. But then maybe there were extenuating circumstances that the president wanted you to stick around. Can you talk about any of that?

Actually, not really. I got back home as soon as I reasonably could. We’re got a lot of important things going in the region. And I’ve been involved in a lot of that. We have some important things happening right now in Japan, so I think I’ve got everything in a good place. I’ve got a great team on the ground right now. All of their work is planned out. They know what they need to be doing. And the folks at the State Department are fulling engaged, as is the White House. So I don’t think they’re going to miss me.

Q: Coming out of the world of diplomacy, where you have to be careful and measured about what you say, how do you go about changing your mindset to domestic politics and campaigns?

I understand the question, but a lot of what I worked on has serious implications back home. Like Sen. Blackburn mentioned, the work I was doing on trade was so heavily focused on ag. Our farmers are bearing the brunt of our disputes with China. China has retaliated against American farmers.

Japan is a huge market for us, and we need to make sure Japan is doing as much as they possibly can to support our farmers right now, because Japan benefits immensely from our standing up to China. They suffer just like we do, from property theft and competing with state-owned enterprises, that type of thing. They are also in the neighborhood where islands are being militarized and a lot of bad things potentially could happen out there. What’s happening to the north and to the west of Japan is a tough neighborhood, and we’re their most important ally in all of this. A lot of that has an impact back here at home.

I’d say the next steps that I take will get me back re-engaged in Tennessee. I’ve been gone a couple years, and I plan to spend a lot of time going from one end of the state to the other, talking to people to hear from them what the issues are, and how things I saw over there are affecting things back home, and think about maybe if there’s a way I can help.

I’m glad to be back.

Kustoff won’t run for Senate

U.S. Rep. David Kustoff (R-Memphis) has decided against running for the Senate next year. President Donald Trump has tweeted that U.S. Ambassador Bill Hagerty will seek the seat being vacated by Lamar Alexander (R-Maryville). Vanderbilt surgeon Manny Sethi joined the race before former Gov. Bill Halsam announced he wouldn’t run.

Meanwhile, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports another doctor, Josh Gapp, is running as a Republican.

Former lawmaker, ex-GOP chairman, and current lobbyist Ryan Haynes was surprised to see his name floated among potential Senate candidates. He’s not running.

 

Sethi charges GOP establishment in Tennessee, DC sought to ‘scare’ him off of Senate race

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Manny Sethi says in a new Facebook post that unnamed persons “at the highest levels of Tennessee and DC politics” sought to dissuade and even attempt to “scare” him out of running for Tennessee’s open seat.

The Nashville trauma surgeon, who ignored them and announced on June 2 his bid to succeed retiring Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander, specifically cites the National Republican Senatorial Committee as among them.

“I’ll never forget it — I was at my son’s 6th birthday party when I started getting texts and phone calls from people at the highest levels of Tennessee and DC politics,” Sethi writes in the post. “They were trying to talk me out of running — telling me I had no right to even run, that I would never raise any significant money, that I was wrong to even think of getting in the race.

“Even Mitch McConnell’s National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) in Washington DC called, which was weird, considering they’re ‘neutral’ in GOP primaries. It was like this all weekend: every few hours, someone trying to persuade me or scare me out of announcing.

After formally entering the race, Sethi said, “things quieted down some — until this last week. Our team announced last Wednesday that we had put over $1.5 million dollars in the bank. A great start.”

Sethi begins the post saying, “what I’m about to say might make some folks uncomfortable, but Tennesseans have a right to hear it. Part of why the GOP Establishment is powerful is because regular people don’t know how they really operate. I think Tennesseans should know what happens behind closed doors then make their own decisions.”

Sethi so far is the only major announced candidate, but U.S. Ambassador to Japan Bill Hagerty plans to announce after he officially leaves his post, which he hopes to do by the end of July.

Hagerty’s candidacy was announced earlier this month by his boss, President Donald Trump who also endorsed him and said he would do all he can to help him.

In the post, Sethi also describes his parents’ impoverished background in India where he said they “lost their homes because of sectarian violence. Despite this, they both went on to become doctors” and legally emigrated to America.

Haslam talks about Senate race, Gov. Lee, and UT in wide-ranging interview

Former Gov. Bill Haslam has tackled a wide variety of issues in one of his first extensive interviews since deciding against running for the U.S. Senate. In his sit-down with WBIR-TV in Knoxville, Haslam discusses how he came to that decision, as well as about his successor Bill Lee’s performance through the first six months of his time as governor, the ongoing saga surrounding the honoring of Confederate general and early Ku Klux Klan leader Nathan Bedford Forrest, and Randy Boyd’s job as interim president of the University of Tennessee.

Take a look here:

U.S. Embassy: Hagerty to step down this month for Senate bid

(Photo credit: U.S. Embassy in Japan)

U.S. Ambassador to Japan Bill Hagerty, who is expected to mount a bid for Tennessee’s U.S. Senate in 2020, is officially “in the process of resigning” his diplomatic post “later this month,” the embassy said Tuesday.

The statement comes days after President Donald Trump announced Friday via Twitter that Hagerty was running to succeed retiring Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander. Trump said Hagerty, a former state economic commissioner who ran a private equity prior to becoming a member of Trump’s presidential team and later his ambassador, has his full support.

The embassy did not say Hagerty planned to run for the Senate seat. Alexander along with fellow Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn are believed to be already privately making calls on Hagerty’s behalf and also plan to publicly endorse him when he makes his candidacy official.

Nashville surgeon Manny Sethi is the only major announced Republican candidate in the race so far. But Republicans U.S. Rep. David Kustoff of Memphis and former state senator Jamie Woodson are also considering a bid

Nashville attorney and Iraq war veteran James Mackler has already announced for the seat.

Here’s the U.S. Embassy’s release:

U.S. Ambassador to Japan William F. Hagerty IV is in the process of resigning as Ambassador. He was sworn in as U.S. Ambassador to Japan on July 27, 2017 and will have served approximately two years.

Ambassador Hagerty is honored to have represented the President and the American people in his work to advance the U.S.-Japan Alliance, the cornerstone of peace and prosperity in the Pacific.

Upon Ambassador Hagerty’s departure, Joseph M. Young will assume duties as the U.S. Embassy’s Chargé d’Affaires ad interim.

Haslam announces he won’t run for Senate

Gov. Bill Haslam speaks at an event at the Musicians Hall of Fame in Nashville on Aug. 28, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Former Gov. Bill Haslam has decided against running for the U.S. Senate, according to a letter submitted to Tennessee Gannett newspapers.

Haslam said he came to the realization that following in the Senate footsteps of his mentors Lamar Alexander and Howard Baker was “not my calling fo the next period of my life.”

“Since leaving office in January, I have wrestled with the possibility of running for the United States Senate,” Haslam wrote in the letter. “I want to thank everyone who has encouraged me and helped me think and pray about this decision.”

“I also apologize to all those who think it has taken me an exceedingly long time to make up my mind!” he said.

The decision throws open the doors to a contested Republican primary. Vanderbilt surgeon Manny Sethi is already in the race. Other potential candidates include U.S. Reps Mark Green and David Kustoff and U.S. Ambassador Bill Hagerty. Others could give the race a fresh look with Haslam on the sidelines, including two failed gubernatorial candidates from the last cycle: former U.S. Rep. Diane Black and interim UT President Randy Boyd.

UPDATE: Black is out. So is Green. Kustoff still considering.

Sethi to report $1.5M on hand for U.S. Senate bid

Republican Manny Sethi is expected to report $1.5 million on hand in the first campaign finance disclosure for his U.S. Senate bid.

About $542,000 comes from outside donors, while the remainder is in the form of loans from the candidate to stress his personal commitment to the campaign.

Sethi announced his Senate bid on June 3, meaning he had only 20 business days to raise money before the fundraising period ended. The Vanderbilt trauma surgeon is the only major Republican candidate to announce a bid so far for the seat being vacated by the retirement of Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Maryville) next year.

Others Republicans considering bids include former Gov. Bill Haslam, Ambassador Bill Hagerty, and U.S. Reps. Mark Green of Ashland City and David Kustoff of Memphis.

The primary is scheduled for Aug. 6, 2020.

 

Haslam to decide on Senate bid within 3 weeks

Former Gov. Bill Haslam (right) and U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander attend the state Republican Party’s annual Statesmen’s Dinner in Nashville on June 15, 2019.

Republican Bill Haslam plans to make up his mind about a U.S. Senate bid within the next two or three weeks, the former governor told reporters at the state GOP’s annual Statesmen’s Dinner fundraiser.

Haslam said it’s been his intention to decide about whether to make a bid to succeed U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Maryville) within six months of leaving the governor’s office.

The former governor sat a table alongside Alexander, junior Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Brentwood), and U.S. Ambassador Bill Hagerty.

Hagerty would be expected to give the race some serious consideration if Haslam doesn’t run. U.S. Rep. Mark Green (R-Ashland City) is also mulling a campaign. Surgeon Manny Sethi of Nashville announced his candidacy earlier this month.

Haslam said he enjoyed being back in political circles.

“I loved the job, and when you come back and see a lot of people you haven’t seen, you miss that,” he said. “But being a private citizen has its upsides, too.”

Sethi enters Republican race to succeed Alexander

Surgeon Manny Sethi is joining the Republican race to succeed retiring U.S. Sen  Lamar Alexander next year. His announcement comes before other potential candidates like former Gov. Bill Haslam, Ambassador Bill Hagerty, or U.S. Rep Mark Green have announced whether they will run.

Here’s Sethi’s announcement release:

Nashville — Today, Dr. Manny Sethi, a Nashville trauma surgeon, launched his campaign for United States Senate.

“Tennesseans want a conservative outsider who will take on the Establishment, support President Trump, fight illegal immigration and work to repeal ObamaCare,” said Sethi. “That’s why I’m running for Senate.”

Dr. Sethi, 41, is the first candidate to enter the race.  A first generation son of Indian immigrants, Sethi released a video this morning telling the story of his family coming to America.

“My parents taught me to be grateful I was born in America because everything our family has was given to us by this country. I am a product of the American dream. I want to make sure that dream is available to our children and grandchildren,” said Sethi.

Sethi, and his wife, Maya, have been together since they were 16. They were married in 2005 and have two young children.

The Republican Primary is August.