Aug 7, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Bill Hagerty wins Republican Senate nomination in Tennessee primary

Former U.S. Ambassador to Japan Bill Hagerty speaking at CPAC in 2019.
Former U.S. Ambassador to Japan Bill Hagerty speaking at CPAC in 2019. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

Former U.S. Ambassador to Japan Bill Hagerty won the Tennessee Republican Senate primary on Thursday evening, beating out surgeon Manny Sethi for GOP Sen. Lamar Alexander's seat, who announced his retirement in late 2018, AP reports.

Why it matters: Though the race narrowed in July, Hagerty — who received President Trump's endorsement in 2019 — stuck close to the president's messaging and touted his Tennessee roots.

Between the lines: Thursday's race served as an example of two GOP candidates fighting over whose agenda better reflected Trump's.

  • Sethi, the son of Indian immigrants, campaigned as a political outsider and repeatedly stamped Hagerty as a part of the “establishment."
  • Hagerty characterized Sethi as an opportunist, calling him "too liberal for Tennessee," and noting he applied for a job in the Obama administration and defended the Affordable Care Act.

What to watch: Tennessee's position as a Republican stronghold all but guarantees Hagerty will be the winner in November against the Democratic candidate in the general election.

  • The state hasn't elected a Democratic senator since 1990.
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