Trump announces, endorses ambassador to Japan's Tennessee Senate bid

Trump announces, endorses ambassador to Japan's Tennessee Senate bid
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate gears up for battle over witnesses in impeachment trial Vulnerable Democrats tout legislative wins, not impeachment Trump appears to set personal record for tweets in a day MORE announced Friday that Bill Hagerty, who currently serves as ambassador to Japan, will run for the open Tennessee Senate seat next year to replace Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderWays and Means Committee announces rival surprise medical billing fix Impeachment surprise: Bills Congress could actually pass in 2020 Overnight Health Care — Presented by That's Medicaid — Deal on surprise medical bills faces obstacles | House GOP unveils rival drug pricing measure ahead of Pelosi vote | Justices to hear case over billions in ObamaCare payments MORE (R). 

“Tennessee loving Bill Hagerty, who was my Tennessee Victoy Chair and is now the very outstanding Ambassador to Japan, will be running for the U.S. Senate. He is strong on crime, borders & our 2nd A. Loves our Military & our Vets. Has my Complete & Total Endorsement!” Trump tweeted.

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Alexander, a 79-year-old three-term senator, announced in December that he will not run for reelection in 2020. His office did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding Hagerty’s candidacy. 

Sources familiar with the conversation told The Hill that Alexander and Sen. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnTikTok chief cancels Capitol Hill meetings, inflaming tensions Lawsuits pose new challenge for TikTok TikTok's leader to meet with lawmakers next week MORE (R-Tenn.) worked together with the White House and talked with the president and his closest advisers this week to encourage Hagerty's run.

Before serving overseas, Hagerty worked as director of presidential appointments for the 2016 Trump Presidential Transition Team, served on former President George H.W. Bush’s Council on Competitiveness and was commissioner for Tennessee’s Department of Economic and Community Development. He also worked for years in the private sector and co-founded a private equity investment firm.

As ambassador, he helped facilitate several high-profile White House trips to Japan, including Trump’s attendance at last month’s Group of 20 summit. 

The announcement of his candidacy comes a day after two other prominent Tennessee Republicans, former Gov. Bill Haslam and Rep. Mark GreenMark GreenTrump says he will 'temporarily hold off' on declaring Mexican drug cartels as terror organization Trump says he will designate Mexican drug cartels as terror organizations House GOP criticizes impeachment drive as distracting from national security issues MORE, declared they would not run to replace Alexander. 

Hagerty will have to face orthopedic trauma surgeon Manny Sethi in the primary race for the GOP nomination. Rep. David KustoffDavid Frank KustoffTrump announces, endorses ambassador to Japan's Tennessee Senate bid GOP to launch discharge petition on anti-BDS measure It's time to defund the Saudi-led coalition's war in Yemen MORE (R) and former Rep. Stephen FincherStephen Lee FincherTrump announces, endorses ambassador to Japan's Tennessee Senate bid Lamar Alexander's exit marks end of an era in evolving Tennessee Tensions on immigration erupt in the House GOP MORE (R) have also floated runs of their own. 

The National Republican Senatorial Committee did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill regarding Hagerty’s candidacy.

James Mackler, who ditched a run for the Senate last year, is the only Democrat thus far to officially declare his intention to fill Alexander’s seat.

The Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan election handicapper, rates the race as “Likely Republican.” 

Trump won Tennessee by more than 26 points in 2016. In last year’s election to replace Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerRNC says ex-Trump ambassador nominee's efforts 'to link future contributions to an official action' were 'inappropriate' Lindsey Graham basks in the impeachment spotlight The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Nareit — White House cheers Republicans for storming impeachment hearing MORE (R), Blackburn defeated former Gov. Phil Bredesen (D) by nearly 11 points.