U.S. Senate campaign

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.

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

Delayed Bradshaw filing gives more complete picture of how little it took to win Democratic nod

Fifty-eight days after it was due, Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Marquita Bradshaw has filed her second-quarter campaign finance disclosure. It shows the upset winner of the Aug. 6 primary had spent all of $15,947 through the first half of the year.

That compares with the $1.4 million Nashville attorney James Mackler had spent to that point. Mackler ended up finishing third in contest to Bradshaw and Robin Kimbrough.

Bradshaw spent about $8,500 in the second quarter, with the largest portion ($4,400) going to Cincinnati-based media consultant Putting Women in Their Place.

Bradshaw raised $18,301 through the first two quarters of the year, including $5,941 in the most recent period. About 63% of her contributions were unitimized.

Bradshaw faces Republican Bill Hagerty (who had spent $1.4 million through the second quarter) in the general election.

UPDATE: Bradshaw’s pre-primary report is in now, too. It shows she raised a total of $23,221 and spent $21,617.

Check out these precinct-level maps of the U.S. Senate primary

Our favorite political mapmaker Don Johnson is back with a fascinating look at where Bill Hagerty and Manny Sethi did best in the Republican U.S. Senate primary in Tennessee. Have a look here:

He’s back: Sethi’s social media footprint restored

We’ve had a bit of fun at unsuccessful U.S. Senate candidate Manny Sethi’s expense both in the print and blog editions of The Tennessee Journal for the unexplained wiping of his social media footprint after losing the Republican U.S. Senate nomination.

But just as suddenly as Sethi’s Twitter and Facebook pages disappeared following the Aug. 6 primary, they’re back online in all their glory (his Instagram, however, remains AWOL).

UPDATE: We’re informed that the social media accounts were taken down while Sethi mulled changing his handles now that the campaign is over.

Like it never happened? Sethi scrubs social media accounts

Following his disappointing showing in the Republican nomination contest for the U.S. Senate, former candidate Manny Sethi’s campaign has taken the unusual step of scrubbing his social media accounts from the internet.

Gone are Sethi’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts, though some of his ads are still to be enjoyed on his YouTube page.

Sethi, a Vanderbilt surgeon, gained gained 39% of the vote in the Aug. 6 primary, compared with 51% for winner Bill Hagerty, a former U.S. ambassador to Japan. Sethi had sought to characterize Hagerty as being the establishment candidate while he represented the GOP grassroots.

Sethi’s message resonated in some areas of the state (he gained his biggest advantages in Rutherford, Knox, Coffee, Williamson, and Maury counties). But Hagerty blew Sethi out of the water in Shelby County by more than 12,700 votes — enough to negate the 9,429 margin Sethi pulled out over Hagerty in all 12 counties he won.

In all, Hagerty won 83 of 95 counties, including 29 in which the margin was more than 1,000 votes.

In contrast to Sethi’s social media disappearing act, former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen, who lost a bruising race to U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Brentwood) in 2018, has kept his Twitter account. It still touts his highest profile endorsement of the race: that of pop superstar Taylor Swift.

Hagerty gets Right to Life endorsement

Republican U.S. Senate nominee Bill Hagerty appears at a Republican event in Franklin on Aug. 8, 2020 (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The National Right to Life Committee has endorsed U.S. Senate candidate Bill Hagerty following his Republican primary win last week. The move comes as a bit of a surprise because Hagerty has expressed support for keeping access to abortions to women who are victims of incest or rape and for mothers whose pregnancies put their lives in danger. A similar position by U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn has long kept the Brentwood Republican from gaining the Right to Life endorsement.

Here’s the release from the Hagerty campaign:

Nashville, TN — Today, Bill Hagerty, Republican nominee for U.S. Senate, announced the National Right to Life Committee endorsed Hagerty to serve in the U.S. Senate.

“As a Christian conservative and a father of four children, I know just how precious the right to life is, and I am humbled to have the support of the National Right to Life Committee,” said Bill Hagerty. “Radical Democrats, led by Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, and Joe Biden, seek to implement their socialist agenda that includes abortion funded by taxpayers for any reason up to and even after the moment of birth. As your Senator, I will be a voice for the voiceless, fight for pro-life legislation including the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, and work to defund Planned Parenthood once and for all.”

“National Right to Life is pleased to endorse Bill Hagerty for election to the U.S. Senate, to represent the state of Tennessee,” said Carol Tobias, National Right to Life Committee President. “Bill is a strong advocate for life. All Tennessee voters who are concerned with the right to life and with the protection of the most vulnerable members of the human family should vote to send Bill to the Senate, so that he can work to advance vital pro-life public policies.”

National Right To Life Committee joins the Susan B. Anthony List in supporting Bill Hagerty for Senate.