U.S. Senate campaign

Hagerty wins GOP nomination in Tennessee Senate race

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

The AP has called the Republican U.S. Senate primary for former Ambassador Bill Hagerty over Vanderbilt surgeon Manny Sethi.

Hagerty posted early leads in most Tennessee counties, as his campaign’s barrage of negative ads about Sethi appeared to stymie the Vanderbilt surgeon’s momentum in the race.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee congratulated Hagerty on his win:

As a lifelong conservative, Bill Hagerty will be a strong voice for the people of Tennessee and an important ally to President Trump in the U.S. Senate. His background as a successful businessman and diplomat bring unique insight to how we solve our nation’s challenges. I look forward to another victory for him come November and working alongside him to continue Republicans’ record of achievement in the Senate.

Trump lauds Hagerty in phone call with supporters

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

President Donald Trump reiterated his support for former Ambassador Bill Hagerty in the Republican primary to succeed U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Maryville) in a Wednesday evening phone call with supporters.

Billed as a tele-town hall, the event lasted about five minutes and did not involve any questions. Trump predicted a Hagerty win and did not mention his chief GOP rival, Manny Sethi

According to Jonathan Mattise of the AP:

The president showered Hagerty with praise, calling him a “stalwart defender of our conservative values” on topics ranging from gun rights to abortion opposition.

He said Hagerty was one of Trumps “strongest supporters in 2016,” praised his work on the presidential transition team and said hes still “legendary over there” in Japan.

“He’s a Trump conservative. He’s a friend of mine. He’s a great guy,” Trump said of Hagerty during the fiveminute call. “Tennessee is one of my favorite places. I really appreciate all of your support.”

Attendee at Chattanooga GOP event tests positive for COVID-19

Last weekend’s Hamilton County Lincoln Day dinner has proven to be the source of much intrigue over the veracity of its straw poll, because Senate candidates weren’t wearing masks, and due to allegations of the strategic deployment of campaign workers wearing short skirts. Now, the Hamilton County Health Department is urging anyone who was there to get tested for COVID-19 after someone who attended tested positive.

“We know that COVID-19 is highly contagious and can spread easily at large gatherings,” Health Department Administrator Becky Barnes said in a release. “We recommend staying home if you are sick, practicing social  distancing, wearing a mask, and washing your hands frequently to stop the spread of the virus in our community.”

Bill Hagerty and Manny Sethi, the leading candidates for the GOP nomination to succeed retiring U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, both attended.

Here’s what Sethi had to say:

And here’s what the Hagerty camp told  told WCRB-TV:

As Election Day quickly approaches, we are focused on sharing Bill’s positive conservative message with Tennessee voters. They’re tired of mandates and being told what to do by the government. Bill trusts the good people of Tennessee to make the right decisions for themselves.

Meanwhile, Democratic Senate candidate James Mackler wasn’t impressed.

Big outside money flows into Senate, 1st District races

While Bill Hagerty’s and Manny Sethi’s campaigns slog it out against each other, a series of outside committees are also spending heavily in hopes of influencing the outcome of the Republican U.S. Senate primary.

The biggest player among them has been the Protect Freedom PAC, a group linked to U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who has endorsed Sethi. The PAC has spent $1.47 million on ads backing the Sethi. Another group called Conservative Outsiders’ PAC has spent $1 million attacking Hagerty.

Meanwhile, a super PAC called Standing with Conservatives has poured $1.3 million into the race, nearly all of it to oppose Sethi. U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton’s America One PAC has spent another $375,000 to oppose Sethi. The Arkansas Republican is backing Hagerty.

The primary to decide the Republican nomination to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Phil Roe (R-Johnson City) is also experiencing heavy independent expenditures. The Club for Growth, which has endorsed state Rep. Timothy Hill (R-Blountville), has spent $945,000 so far. About $425,000 has gone toward ads supporting Hill, while the rest has gone toward attacking GOP rivals Diana Harshbarger ($366,000), Rusty Crowe ($132,000), and Josh Gapp ($22,164).

The House Freedom Fund has kicked in $16,000 to support Hill and the delightfully named Bless Your Heart Coalition has spent $15,000 to oppose Harshbarger.

American Conservative Union endorses Hagerty

Former U.S. Ambassador Bill Hagerty attends a CPAC conference in Memphis on Oct. 27, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The American Conservative Union, the group known for putting on the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), is endorsing Bill Hagerty in Tennessee’s U.S. Senate race.

Hagerty spoke at a regional CPAC meeting in Memphis in October 2019. Rival Republican candidate Manny Sethi was also part of the program at the event, though his speaking slot was pushed back to late in the afternoon to accommodate an appearance by My Pillow founder Michael Lindel.

The American Conservative Union in 2018 endorsed U.S. Rep. Diane Black (R-Gallatin) in her unsuccessful bid for the gubernatorial nomination.

Here is the release endorsing Hagerty:

Alexandria, VA – The American Conservative Union (ACU) today announced its endorsement of Bill Hagerty for election in Tennessee to the United States Senate.

“In Tennessee the race to become the next U.S. Senator has come down to a choice between two candidates with conservative policy positions, but for ACU the choice is clear. We know from personal experience the impact that Bill Hagerty has had advancing conservative successes,” said ACU Chairman Matt Schlapp. “Ambassador Hagerty served effectively under President Trump as the U.S. Ambassador to Japan, and in that role helped shape the aggressive approach that the United States has taken over the last few years holding China more accountable on trade, national security, and human rights. The Ambassador directly assisted our efforts on CPAC Japan and helps our efforts to combat communism in Asia. Ambassador Hagerty’s accomplished record is not just one of working overseas to advance conservatism, but also here at home. He led the Trump transition team and created the single most conservative cabinet in U.S. history. We have worked with Bill Hagerty for years and in that time we have seen him as an effective leader and we know that he can do the same in Congress. That’s why we are endorsing him to be Tennessee’s next Senator.”

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Hagerty’s latest ad remarkable for what it doesn’t include (hint: it’s that guy who endorsed him)

Former U.S. Ambassador Bill Hagerty has spent much of his Senate bid hammering home the point that he has been endorsed by President Donald Trump —  a fact that’s been featured prominently on campaign signs and in TV and radio ads. But not in his latest one-minute spot, titled “What Makes America Exceptional.”

The ad features Hagerty talking to the camera about growing up raising livestock and working on road crews when he was in college. He then discusses his time as state economic and community development commissioner and as U.S. ambassador to Japan.

“No one loves this nation more than I do,” Hagerty concludes. “I want that same opportunity for your children and grandchildren, just like I want them for mine. That’s why I’m running for United States Senate.”

On the face of it, it’s a fairly run-of-the-mill biographical ad, the sort one might expect to run early in a campaign to introduce a candidate to the voters. But this ad comes with just three days remaining before the primary election after weeks of attack ads slamming his main rival for the nomination, Vanderbilt surgeon Manny Sethi.

The last advertising push comes as Hagerty has tapped his line of credit by another $800,000 in recent days to bring his total debt to $3.3 million. Sethi has also gone back to his own checkbook, adding $300,000 to the $1.93 million he had previously loaned his campaign.

The transcript of Hagerty’s latest spot follows:

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Sethi, Hagerty support congressional term limits

U.S. Senate candidate Manny Sethi has signed a pledge to support term limits in Congress, joining rival Republican Bill Hagerty in backing the effort to allow senators no more than two six-year terms and hold representatives to three consecutive two-year terms.

A proposed constitutional amendment has been introduced by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who was scheduled to campaigning with Sethi in West Tennessee on Monday.

Both candidates have also signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge by Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform.

Here’s a release from U.S. Term Limits Monday about Sethi’s pledge:

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Term Limits (USTL), the leader in the non-partisan national movement to limit the terms of elected officials, praises 2020 U.S. Senate candidate from Tennessee, Manny Sethi, for signing the pledge for an amendment to term limit Congress.

U.S. Term Limits has the support of more than 70 pledge signers in Congress. USTL President Philip Blumel commented on Sethi’s pledge saying, “Manny’s strong support of term limits shows that there are individuals who are willing to put self-interest aside to follow the will of the people. America needs a Congress that will be served by citizen legislators, not career politicians.”

The U.S. Term Limits amendment pledge is provided to every announced candidate for federal office. It reads, “I pledge that as a member of Congress, I will cosponsor and vote for the U.S. Term Limits amendment of three (3) House terms and two (2) Senate terms and no longer limit.”The U.S. Term Limits constitutional amendment has been introduced in both the U.S. Senate by Senator Ted Cruz (SJR1) and the U.S. House by Representative Francis Rooney (HJR20).

Blumel noted, “We have seen a dramatic increase in supporters wanting term limits on Congress. More than 82% of Americans have rejected the career politician model and want to replace it with citizen leadership. The way to achieve that goal is through congressional term limits.”

According to a 2018 nationwide poll on term limits conducted by McLaughlin & Associates, term limits enjoy wide bipartisan support. McLaughlin’s analysis states, “Support for term limits is broad and strong across all political, geographic and demographic groups. An overwhelming 82% of voters approve of a constitutional amendment that will place term limits on members of Congress.”

Blumel concluded, “America is in trouble. Our career politicians have let the people down. It is time to return control of our nation to the people. It is time for a constitutional amendment limiting congressional terms.”

The term limits amendment resolutions would require a two-thirds majority in the House and Senate, and ratification by 38 states, in order to become part of the U.S. Constitution.

Congressional term limits is the one bipartisan issue supported by both President Trump and former President Obama.

 

Politico: Tennessee’s Senate primary ‘nastiest’ in nation

Tennessee’s Republican primary for the U.S Senate between Bill Hagerty and Manny Sethi is the “nastiest” in the nation, according to a report by Politico

Here’s an excerpt:

Hagerty largely ignored Sethi most of the race — seemingly confident of his lead which his internal polls had at 17 points — until earlier this month, when he abruptly went on the offensive. His recent campaign speeches and interviews are chock-full of attack lines. His campaign has dubiously accused Sethi of donating money to a group “bankrolling these rioters” in an ad with a wounded veteran telling voters that Sethi can’t be trusted to defend the flag.

And Hagerty has been repeatedly mispronouncing Sethi’s name as “Set-ee” instead of “Seth-ee” a year into the race, even in response to reporter questions with the correct pronunciation. Hagerty told POLITICO it was inadvertent, and he didn’t know which pronunciation Sethi, the son of Indian immigrants, prefers.

“Bill Hagerty is Thurston Howell III without the charm,” said Jordan Gehrke, Sethi’s senior strategist, comparing Hagerty to the out-of-touch millionaire in the ’70s-era sitcom “Gilligan’s Island.” “He’s desperate. He should be.”

[…]

On mispronouncing Sethi’s last name on the stump, Hagerty says the slight is unintentional.

“I’m just not sure what his preferred pronunciation is, but there’s nothing underlying it,” Hagerty said.

Pence officially joins list of Hagerty endorsers

Nobody was really surprised when U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Brentwood) threw her support behind Bill Hagerty’s U.S. Senate bid last week. Throw the endorsement from Vice President Mike Pence on Monday evening into the same category:

While the endorsement underscores the Hagerty narrative of being the choice of President Donald Trump, it would be near unimaginable that Pence wouldn’t take the same position as the commander-in-chief.

But every endorsement counts. Or at least so we’re told…

 

 

Hagerty-supporting PAC pushes back against Sethi’s effort to block ad

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

An outside PAC supporting Bill Hagerty’s bid for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination is pushing back against rival Manny Sethi’s efforts to get TV stations to drop its ad.

Sethis’s lawyers this week called the ad by the Standing with Conservatives PAC “knowingly dishonest” for suggesting a $50 donation to Democratic congressional candidate in 2008 was linked to  online contribution processor ActBlue’s later support for Bernie Sanders’ presidential bid.

“The ability to criticize a public figure’s actions, and to discuss matters of public importance, lies at the heart of the First Amendment, as courts have repeatedly recognized,” Karen Blackistonea lawyer for Standing with Conservatives, wrote to station managers.

“The Candidate denies supporting ActBlue and asserts that ActBlue does not conduct any advocacy. Per ActBlue’s website, ActBlue is more than just a credit card processor. It is dedicated to empowering democratic and progressive liberal campaigns build their movements,” Blackistone wrote “ActBlue exclusively permits certain groups to use its services that shares similar liberal, progressive values.”

The ads were still on the air of as late this week.

The full letter from Standing with Conservatives follows.

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