JOHNSON CITY, Tenn (WJHL) — Tennessee U.S. Senate candidate Bill Hagerty may be considered the front-runner, but he says he’s consciously not acting like it.
“We’re running this race like we’re ten points behind every day,” he told News Channel 11 during his first campaign stop in Johnson City since formally entering the race to replace retiring U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander. “Nobody is going to work harder than me or my team.”
He says his entrance into the Republican primary race may represent a first – a candidate endorsement by a U.S. President even before the campaign even began.
“I think it was certainly something that I wasn’t aware was going to happen as it did,” Hagerty said.
How it happened surprised political watchers across Tennessee.
July 12th, President Trump endorsed Hagerty with a tweet calling him “Tennessee-loving Bill Hagerty.”
At the time, he was the president’s ambassador to Japan.
“The timing wasn’t something that I was aware of,” Hagerty said. “But it was something that came and we’ve embraced it.”
Almost five months later, Hagerty is an official candidate with almost $2 million raised in campaign donations as of the end of September. The next campaign finance reporting will happen after the first of the year.
The former Tennessee Commissioner of Economic Development isn’t the only Republican running for the GOP nomination. Nashville physician Dr. Manny Sethi also is campaigning actively.
Hagerty says he decided to run in order to be an ally to the President in the U.S. Senate.
James Mackler is running as a Democratic candidate for Senate.
“When I see what’s coming from Nancy Pelosi and ‘The Squad’, not only are they on this never-ending pursuit to impeach the president, but they’re bringing in policies that are downright socialism,” Hagerty said.
Hagerty says the ongoing impeachment inquiry is only helping the president in Tennessee.
“The intensity behind our support for him in Tennessee is only going up,” he said. “Tennesseans are fed up with this impeachment witch hunt. They see it for what it is.”
And he’s clearly convinced what’s good for President Trump is good or his Senate campaign.
“When we look at the Republican primary the president has made his choice very clear,” Hagerty said. “President Trump is endorsing me.”