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 TrumpSarah Huckabee Sanders becomes Fox News contributor The US-Iranian scuffle over a ship is a sideshow to events in the Gulf South Korea: US, North Korea to resume nuclear talks 'soon' 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 AlexanderThe Hill's Morning Report - How will Trump be received in Dayton and El Paso? McConnell faces pressure to bring Senate back for gun legislation Criminal justice reform should extend to student financial aid 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 BlackburnTaylor Swift defends staying out of the 2016 election: 'I just knew I wasn't going to help' The 23 Republicans who opposed Trump-backed budget deal Senate passes sweeping budget deal, sending it to Trump 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 GreenTackling China in modern Cold War New policy at Interior's in-house watchdog clamps down on interactions with press Senate leaves for five-week August recess 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 CorkerTrump announces, endorses ambassador to Japan's Tennessee Senate bid Meet the key Senate player in GOP fight over Saudi Arabia Trump says he's 'very happy' some GOP senators have 'gone on to greener pastures' MORE (R), Blackburn defeated former Gov. Phil Bredesen (D) by nearly 11 points.