U.S. Senate campaign

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.

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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.

Club for Growth launches website targeting Haslam

Gov. Bill Haslam gives his farewell address before the inauguration ceremony for Gov. Bill Lee in Nashville on Jan. 19, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The Club for Growth, a conservative Super PAC, is taking aim at former Gov. Bill Haslam’s potential candidacy for the U.S. Senate. The Knoxville Republican is expected to make a decision about whether to run this spring.

The group has expressed support for U.S. Rep. Mark Green (R-Ashland City) to jump into the race to succeed Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Maryville) next year. Club for Growth agitated on Republican Marsha Blackburn’s behalf in her successful bid for the Senate last year.

“Deciding to run for the United States Senate would be different than deciding if I am going to go work for this bank or that insurance company or whatever,” Haslam said a Freed-Hardeman University forum last week.  “At the end of the day, for all of us, it’s about where can we be the most useful. Where can our gifts and the world’s needs intersect.”

The Club for Growth ad and the related DirtyBillHaslam.com website take aim over the scandal at the Pilot Flying J truck stop chain controlled by the former governor and his family.

“Governor, don’t run,” Club for Growth Action President David McIntosh said in a release. “You have a legacy as governor and clearly don’t have the fire in the belly nor desire to serve in the U.S. Senate.”

Health partnership lauds bill targeting ‘bad drug’ ads

A bill targeting “bad drug” television advertisements is drawing the praise of  the Partnership to Protect Patient Health and Vanderbilt surgeon Manny Sethi, a potential Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate next year. The measure passed the upper chamber on a 24-6 vote on Monday evening.

Here’s the full release from the Partnership to Protect Patient Health:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Partnership to Protect Patient Health today joined Manny Sethi, an orthopedic trauma surgeon in Nashville and founder of statewide non-profit Healthy Tennessee, in applauding introduction of legislation to safeguard Tennesseans from deceptive “bad drug” advertisements.

“I applaud Senator Briggs and Representative Sexton for their work to protect Tennesseans from deceptive ‘bag drug’ commercials – truth in these advertisements is critical to protect patient safety,” said Manny Sethi, an orthopedic trauma surgeon in Nashville and founder of statewide non-profit Healthy Tennessee. “Research shows, and I have seen firsthand, that these commercials lead patients who have been prescribed critically important medications to doubt or discontinue their treatment regimen without consulting a physician, putting patients’ health at risk. Without limiting or banning drug-injury advertisements, this common sense legislation will ensure vulnerable populations are protected and that they have the information needed to make the best decisions for their health. I thank Senator Briggs and Representative Sexton for their leadership and look forward to SB0352 and HB0352 becoming law.”

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Green to host swearing-in fundraiser featuring Lee, legislative leaders

It’s never too soon to start raising money. Especially in newly-elected U.S. Rep. Mark Green’s case, given that he’s made no great secret about mulling a bid to succeed Sen. Lamar Alexander in 2020.

Green is holding a fundraiser “celebrating the swearing-in” of the congressman on Jan. 23 — 20 days after he was actually sworn in. Also attending are Gov.-elect Bill Lee, Senate Speaker Randy McNally, House Speaker Glen Casada, and Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson.

It will be interesting to see whether any of those legislative leaders distance themselves from Green if term-limited Gov. Bill Haslam decides to jump into the Senate race.

Democrat Mackler to run for Senate in 2020

Democrat James Mackler, who was pushed out of the Senate race in December 2017 by former Gov. Phil Bredesen’s entry into the race, tells Jonathan Mattise of The Associated Press he plans to run the Senate again in 2020.

An announcement video suggests Mackler will run on an anti-Trump platform. “The 46-year-old says he’s not a politician and President Donald Trump is making life harder across Tennessee, citing health care, the tax law and the trade war,” according to the AP report.

Mackler is the first candidate to say he will run for the seat being vacated by U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Maryville). Republican Gov. Bill Haslam has said he will decide about whether to mount a bid in the coming months, while newly-elected U.S. Rep. Mark Greene (R-Ashland City) has also been telling donors about potential plans to run.