bill hagerty

Golden to seek third term as state GOP chair

Republicans hold a unity event in Franklin following the primary election on Aug. 8, 2020.

Scott Golden will seek another term as chairman of the state Republican Party following an election year in which President Donald Trump matched his Tennessee winning percentage from four years ago, former Ambassador Bill Hagerty was elected to the U.S. Senate, and Republicans lost just one seat in the General Assembly.

The former aide to then-U.S. Reps. Marsha Blackburn and Stephen Fincher was first elected to the job in 2016.

Here’s an excerpt from Golden’s letter to the party’s State Executive Committee announcing his latest bid:

Both 2021 and 2022 will get off to a fast start, including the fight to save America beginning in mid-December with the defense of the two Georgia senate seats to determine which Party has the majority in the United States Senate. After, we should all expect to be attending the inauguration of President Trump in January. County party reorganizations, county bylaws, and county calls for local primaries will be happening throughout 2021 as we prepare for redistricting and what will be a great election year of 2022. Of course, our bylaws committee has been working and will continue to refine our policies as we approach this huge election year.

Hagerty wins U.S. Senate race in Tennessee

Republican Bill Hagerty speaks to a reporter before casting his early vote in Nashville on Oct. 21, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Former Ambassador Bill Hagerty has won the U.S. Senate race in Tennessee, according to The Associated Press.

Hagerty will succeed U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Maryville) who is retiring after three terms.

“Congratulations to Bill Hagerty on tonight’s impressive victory. I have been proud to support Bill to occupy the Senate seat that Howard Baker, Al Gore, Fred Thompson and I all have held,” Alexander said in a statement. “He will be a terrific United States Senator for all Tennesseans.”

Hagerty faced Democrat Marquita Bradshaw, a Memphis environmental activist, in the general election.

Most of the action in the Senate contest came during the Republican primary, in which Hagerty prevailed over Vanderbilt surgeon Manny Sethi by 11 points after a spirited campaign featuring heavy outside spending.

Biden endorses Brashaw

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Marquita Bradshaw has received the endorsement of her party’s presidential nominee, Joe Biden.

Bradshaw faces Republican Bill Hagerty, who has carried President Donald Trump’s endorsement since before he even officially entered the race.

Here’s the release from the Bradshaw campaign:

Nashville, Tenn. (Oct. 26, 2020) — After taking the stage in Nashville for the final presidential debate last week, former Vice President Joe Biden is lending his support to the state’s Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate Marquita Bradshaw. 

“Marquita is a proven leader who will fight for the needs of working families — needs she understands because she’s faced the same struggles they have. I am proud to endorse Marquita’s candidacy for U.S. Senate,” Biden said.

Bradshaw is a working-class single mom from Memphis who has dedicated her life to advocating for environmental justice, workers’ rights, education reform, tax reform and trade policies that help local communities. She won the Democratic primary with a surge of grassroots support against a well-funded opponent with only $22,000 in her campaign budget.

Bradshaw’s people-powered campaign is now rewriting the political playbook in Tennessee with the state on pace to have its largest voter turnout in history. With another week of early vote still to go, more Democrats have already early voted in this election than in 2018 or 2016. Bradshaw’s campaign is proving that Tennessee is not a “red state,” but instead, a low-turnout state — a historic trend that this election is changing with nearly 1 million new active voters since 2018.

Bradshaw became an advocate for environmental justice after growing up near a military landfill that poisoned her community with the remains of chemical agents and nuclear weapons. Her volunteer advocacy efforts led her to a career as a paid organizer for labor rights. Like many Americans, she faced job loss and foreclosure during the Great Recession in 2008.

“I know what it’s like to be living one paycheck away from poverty, and to feel the crushing weight of student loan debt and medical bills, while trying to care for your family,” Bradshaw said. “There is so much divisiveness in this country, but at the end of the day, we all want the same things — wages we can live on, good schools for our kids, and communities that are safe and healthy. I look forward to working as a Senator with the Biden administration to accomplish this vision for our country together.”  

In just the last few weeks, the campaign has opened seven offices across the state and received key endorsements from U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Courage to Change PAC, and held a virtual fundraising event with former presidential candidate Mayor Pete Buttigieg. On Tuesday last week, a telethon-style fundraiser hosted by Third Man Records featured performances by more than 50 musicians and artists. The average donation to Bradshaw’s campaign is less than $25.

Bradshaw raises $893K since surprise win in Democratic Senate primary

Memphis environmental activist Marquita Bradshaw, the surprise winner of the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate despite spending just $22,300 on her primary campaign, raised $893,000 in the third quarter.

Bradshaw is the first African-American woman to win a statewide primary in Tennessee. Her campaign said she has received more than 23,000 contributions, averaging $24.12.

“Our campaign isn’t funded by millionaires and billionaires, but by hardworking Tennesseans,” campaign manager Ken Taylor said in a release. “So, our total raised may still be just a fraction of what our opponent has already spent, but a single mom knows how to make a dollar stretch in a way a rich man simply doesn’t.”

Bradshaw faces Republican Bill Hagerty in the race to succeed retiring Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Maryville).

UPDATE: The Hagerty camp says he raised $1.26 million in the quarter.

(This post has been updated to reflect Bradshaw’s fundraising totals for the third quarter, and Hagerty’s since the Aug. 6 election).

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Bradshaw calls for U.S. Senate debate with Hagerty

Democrat Marquita Bradshaw is calling for debate with Republican U.S. Senate rival Bill Hagerty.

“I believe that voters across our state deserve to hear more about my policy platform and how it contrasts with the views of my opponent,” Bradshaw said in a release. “We have been a grassroots campaign from the beginning, but we did what many thought was impossible and won the Democratic nomination with a groundswell of energy from volunteers across the state. I invite my opponent to join me in giving Tennesseans what they deserve: an open and honest debate over the issues they care about most.”

The Hagerty camp has been in discussions about a debate with Bradshaw, but has argued against including various independent candidates.

The Memphis Flyer’s Jackson Backer recently reported that an effort by the Nextstar Media Group to put on a U.S. Senate debate had fallen apart. The invitation for the debate, which would have taken place Oct. 14 at WKRN-TV studios in Nashville, included a requirement to have raised $50,000, with at least half coming from in-state donors. That would have been an easy hurdle for Hagerty to clear, although Bradshaw won despite raising just $22,321 through her most recent report. While donations have spiked since she became Tennessee’s first black woman to win a statewide nomination, the next filings aren’t due until Oct. 15.

Nextstar’s other Tennessee stations are in Memphis, Knoxville, Johnson City, and Jackson.

The Flyer reports that candidate Aaron James, one of nine independents appearing on the ballot, cited Federal Election Commission equal time provisions in seeking to be included in the debate.

The AP’s Kimberlee Kruesi reports Bradshaw’s position appears to be a bit of a reversal:

“Do you hope to debate him at some point?” WJHL-TV anchor Josh Smith asked Bradshaw on Sept. 2.

“No,” Bradshaw answered. 

Before that, in an Aug. 22 WKRN-TV interview, Bradshaw told the news station she was also not interested in debating Hagerty because “he used hatred to drive a message of division.” 

Campaign spokesperson Abigail Sigler said Hagerty had no debate “to commit to” because of Bradshaw’s comments saying she wouldn’t participate in a debate and no other Senate candidate was qualified for the Oct. 14 debate.

Hagerty reacts to Trump testing positive for COVID-19, Blackburn to get checked

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Bill Hagerty speaks at Nashville event on Dec. 3, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Bill Hagerty issued the following statement following the announcement early Friday that President Donald Trump had tested positive for COVID-19:

“My family and I join Americans across the country in praying for President Trump, the First Lady and the Trump family and wish them a speedy recovery. President Trump and First Lady Trump are in the hands of the best medical doctors in America, and we are most optimistic that they will fully recover from the virus. I have seen President Trump’s work-ethic firsthand, and I know he will continue to carry out his duties while quarantining. The entire country stands united behind President Trump and First Lady Trump during this time, and we look forward to their full recovery soon.”

— Bill Hagerty

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Brentwood) said she will get a COVID test after travelling to the debate with the president.

Update: Blackburn says the test came back negative.

Sethi breaks cover, endorses Hagerty

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Manny Sethi speaks at a campaign event in Clarksville on Feb. 4, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Forty-nine days from his disappointing showing in the Republican U.S. Senate primary, Vanderbilt surgeon Manny Sethi is breaking his silence and endorsing former Ambassador Bill Hagerty.

Sethi was a no-show at the state Republican Party’s traditional “unity rally” following the bitter primary campaign. Some of the ill will appears to have faded with time.

“The odds we faced were very difficult, but we stretched the campaign to 12 rounds, went toe to toe with a well-funded opponent, and won the hearts of 250,000 Tennesseans all across the state who placed their trust in me,” Sethi said in an email blast to supporters. “We had a grassroots team second to none, great senior staff leadership, and we kept the campaign clean and focused on the issues.”

Here’s the full email from Sethi:

My friends,

First of all, from the bottom of my heart I want to thank you for standing with me in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate. It was indeed an honor to run for public office, but most importantly, to meet folks from all walks of life who love this country and will continue to fight for the freedoms we value. Since August, I’ve been spending a lot of time with my family and have been reminded that there is nothing more important in life than faith and family. Of course, my children miss rolling on the Big Orange RV, but they are certainly happy to have their dad back home.  

Elections are tough and not for the weak, and while we came up short,  I am so proud of what we accomplished together. The odds we faced were very difficult, but we stretched the campaign to 12 rounds, went toe to toe with a well-funded opponent, and won the hearts of 250,000 Tennesseans all across the state who placed their trust in me. We had a grassroots team second to none, great senior staff leadership, and we kept the campaign clean and focused on the issues. As my daddy would say, “Not bad, not bad at all.”

Our conservative cause remains just as true today, as it did over a year ago when I decided to run for the Senate. The one amazing thing that stands crystal clear after all the television ads and rallies, the child of two immigrants from India, who grew up in rural Tennessee and ran for the United States Senate on the Republican ballot, was able to write a chapter in the book called the American story. We should never lose sight of reaching for the top and capturing our dreams. In the weeks ahead, regardless of what the media and the Democrats try to portray about our country, just remember we are Americans — we make no apologies on who we are and what we stand for because we are the greatest country in the world.

Our way of life is literally on the ballot in November, and now more than ever, it is critical that we stand behind and strongly support our Republican candidates. We must re-elect President Donald Trump, and we must elect Ambassador Bill Hagerty, who has served our state and country well, for the U.S. Senate. Our future is in our own hands, I know you will do your part. For me, this wasn’t my place in time to be in public office, but my resolve is not shaken, and my spirit is not broken, so let’s work together to ensure victory for all Republicans on November 3rd. Our future depends on it.

God Bless,

Dr. Manny

Tennessee reaction to passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg

The passing of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Friday was met with condolences from across the country and within Tennessee.

While most delivered laudatory commentary about Ginsburg’s trailblazing career, Republican U.S. Senate Candidate Bill Hagerty wasted little time in calling on President Donald Trump to quickly nominate a conservative replacement on the nation’s highest court. Senate Republicans in 2016 famously refused to take up then-President Barack Obama’s nomination to succeed deceased Justice Antonin Scalia, who had died in February of that year, because of the upcoming election.

Here is some reaction from Tennessee officials:

President Donald Trump can — and should — nominate a constitutionalist to fill this Supreme Court vacancy; the future of our nation for generations to come depends on it.” 

— Republican U.S. Senate nominee Bill Hagerty of Nashville.

Justice Ginsburg was a smart, talented trailblazer who paved the way for women in the judiciary. She worked hard to achieve prominence on her own merit, and I thank her for her service to our country. 

— U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Brentwood)

She made a major difference in the lives of all Americans, but particularly in the lives of the young women who just want a chance to compete on a level playing field and pursue their dreams.

— U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Memphis)

Justice Ginsburg brought decency, intelligence and principle to the Supreme Court. Her life inspired many Americans, especially young women. Her service to our country deserves great respect.

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Maryville)

The Nashville Post’s Stephen Elliott dug out some comments from Alexander dating back to political fight over the 2016 Supreme Court vacancy:

Letting the mask slip: Lee defends lack of face covering for Trump boat rally

(Image credit: Bill Hagerty campaign)

While Gov. Bill Lee has declined to issue a statewide mask mandate, he has been a prominent proponent of using face coverings to help stem the spread of COVID-19. But the governor was put on the defensive by a photo posted to social media by Bill Hagerty showing the Republican U.S. Senate nominee living it up at a Trump boat rally with Lee, U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais and state Sen. Janice Bowling.

“There are circumstances where I don’t wear a mask because I don’t feel I’m at risk in that situation,” Lee said. “But, yeah, I felt safe. And when I don’t, I wear a mask.”

The Lee administration is spending more than $4 million through the end of the year on its “Face It” multimedia ad campaign to urge mask usage.

“I think Tennesseans need to know, and they hear me every day and they see me in masks every day,” the governor said at a press conference this week. “They watch what we say and what we do. I think it’s really important that I think it’s very serious.”

About 3,000 people attended the 400-boat rally, according to the The Herald Chronicle.

Buttigeig endorses Bradshaw, Harris

Pete Buttigeig (Photo credit: Win the Era)

Former presidential hopeful Pete Buttigeig is endorsing Tennessee Democratic candidates Marquita Bradshaw for U.S. Senate and Torrey Harris for state House.

Bradshaw was the surprise winner of the Democratic nomination in August over Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee favorite James Mackler, who ended up finishing third.

According to a Buttigeig statement posted by his Win the Era organization:

Marquita Bradshaw has spent her career advocating for her community and connecting with people around shared policy outcomes. These efforts are now the cornerstone of her groundbreaking, inspiring campaign. She knows first hand that policy should reflect the lived experiences of the people they are designed to help. She will bring this same perspective to the halls of the Senate and I’m excited to support Marquita in her historic run to represent the hard-working people of Tennessee.

Harris won the House District 90 nomination in Memphis after the state Democratic Party booted longtime state Rep. John DeBerry from its primary ballot due to his propensity of voting with Republicans on issues ranging from abortion to school vouchers.

Here’s what Buttigeig had to say about him:

Through Torrey Harris’ tireless work as a community advocate, he has modeled a willingness to listen, empower, and serve. That is exactly the type of leadership this moment demands and I’m proud to support his campaign.

Meanwhile, DeBerry was endorsed by the Americans for Prosperity and Republican U.S. Senate Bill Hagerty got the nod from the National Federation of Independent Business.

According to NFIB National Political Director Sharon Sussin:

Bill Hagerty has a true understanding of the challenges our members are facing. We have no doubt that he will be an excellent champion for them in the Senate, and we are pleased to endorse him”