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 TrumpBiden slams Trump in new ad: 'The death toll is still rising.' 'The president is playing golf' Brazil surpasses Russia with second-highest coronavirus case count in the world Trump slams Sessions: 'You had no courage & ruined many lives' 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 AlexanderSenators weigh traveling amid coronavirus ahead of Memorial Day McConnell gives two vulnerable senators a boost with vote on outdoor recreation bill Five unanswered questions on COVID-19 and the 2020 election 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 BlackburnSunday shows preview: States begin to reopen even as some areas in US see case counts increase Commerce Department cracks down on Huawei's access to chips Senate approves bill to sanction China over Uighur rights 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 GreenScalise blasts Democrats for calling on certain companies to return PPP loans Scalise targets China, WHO response from coronavirus oversight perch McCarthy unveils new GOP-led China task force 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 KustoffLobbying world Trump announces, endorses ambassador to Japan's Tennessee Senate bid GOP to launch discharge petition on anti-BDS measure 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 CorkerRomney is only GOP senator not on new White House coronavirus task force McConnell, Romney vie for influence over Trump's trial RNC says ex-Trump ambassador nominee's efforts 'to link future contributions to an official action' were 'inappropriate' MORE (R), Blackburn defeated former Gov. Phil Bredesen (D) by nearly 11 points.