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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 TrumpMore than two-thirds of Americans approve of Biden's coronavirus response: poll Sarah Huckabee Sanders to run for governor Mexico's president tests positive for COVID-19 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 AlexanderLamar AlexanderCongress addressed surprise medical bills, but the issue is not resolved Trump renominates Judy Shelton in last-ditch bid to reshape Fed Senate swears-in six new lawmakers as 117th Congress convenes 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 BlackburnThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden takes office, calls for end to 'uncivil war' Senate confirms Biden's intel chief, giving him first Cabinet official Colbert asks Republicans 'have you had enough?' in live show after Capitol violence 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 GreenREAD: The Republicans who voted to challenge election results Here are the Republicans planning to challenge the Electoral College results Republicans press FBI for briefing on efforts by Chinese government operatives to gain influence with lawmakers 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 KustoffREAD: The Republicans who voted to challenge election results Lobbying world Trump announces, endorses ambassador to Japan's Tennessee Senate bid 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 CorkerGOP lawmaker patience runs thin with Trump tactics Former GOP senator: Republicans cannot let Trump's 'reckless' post-election claims stand Cornyn: Relationships with Trump like 'women who get married and think they're going to change their spouse' MORE (R), Blackburn defeated former Gov. Phil Bredesen (D) by nearly 11 points.