KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Bill Hagerty, former U.S. Ambassador to Japan and candidate for U.S. Senate, stopped by WATE Six On Your Side studios Wednesday and discussed a range of issues, from the drone strike on Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, bringing more jobs in Tennessee, and potential solutions for struggles facing rural hospitals.
President Trump endorsed Hagerty in a tweet prior to Hagerty making a campaign announcement. Wednesday, we learned, the president’s son, Donald Trump, Jr., will be attending a Hagerty fundraiser in Gallatin later this month.
The primary for the open U.S. Senate seat is set for August 6.
Hagerty’s main GOP primary opponent is Nashville trauma surgeon Manny Sethi, who also has stressed his support for the president. Sethi has also billed himself as a “conservative outsider.”
Nashville attorney and former Army helicopter pilot James Mackler is one of the top Democrats to enter the Senate race.
Hagerty’s message to voters
On what voters should know about him, Hagerty said: “I’m a Christian conservative, a businessman with an outsider’s perspective…I’m running to help President Trump continue the winning streak he’s put our country on and he’s put Tennessee on. I’m going to stand with the President to help stand up against these calls for radical, socialist, change that are coming from the democrats…”
Hagerty’s plans, if elected, include standing against Medicare for all.
“They would essentially remove our private healthcare,” he said. “They would put the federal government in charge of every aspect of it. If you think healthcare is expensive now, wait until the federal government is in charge of every aspect of it.”
He said he’s met with hospital administrators, and discussed technological solutions such as telemedicine, new business models like a hub and spoke system that would use “smaller units in a rural area, but take advantage of centers of excellence that are located maybe a little further away.” System collaboration, Haggery said, is important to ensuring the best healthcare is delivered to Tennesseans.
WATE 6 On Your Side’s Blake Stevens asked whether the federal government should spend more money on rural hospitals, including raising the amount reimbursed for medicare or medicaid services.
Hagerty replied, “I think that’s going to be part of what we look at in the equation. But, the entire picture has got be looked at, I think, from a system standpoint and make sure we have the most efficient operational model possible and that it’s adequately funded.”
Hagerty stands by the President’s drone strike and believes it sends a message to the world.
“President Trump’s move to take out Soleimani is a major foreign policy victory for the United States. President Trump has taken an important stand. Iran has been a rogue nation for 40 years. We’ve been negotiating with them. The previous administration tried appeasement. That didn’t work. This terrible Iran deal, all it did was put Iran on a course to obtain nuclear weapons. I think the president said this best when he made his address to the nation, as long as he’s President of the United States, Iran will not have a nuclear weapon. If Tennessee sends me to the United States Senate, I’m going to stand with the president to make sure that’s so, to make sure Iran does not have nuclear capabilities. That will be my goal,” he said.
Add jobs, increase wages
If elected, he said his plans include finding new job training programs to get Tennesseans “ready for the jobs of tomorrow.”
He also said he’d aim to bring those jobs of tomorrow to the Volunteer State. He believes recent deregulation and tax reform have been a benefit to job growth in Tennessee.
“What we’re seeing is an economy in the United States that’s running much better than any of the major economies around the world. What I want to see is Tennessee to continue to be at the top of that list and attract more great jobs, more capital, and higher wages to our state.”
He said economic growth would be a priority item. “A good job solves a lot of social problems. What I hope to see is continued growth in jobs. We’ve seen it but we can do more, a continued growth in wages, we’re seeing blue collar wages outstrip the growth in white collar wages.”
Haggerty does not support raising the federal minimum wage.
On the Impeachment trial, set to begin in the Senate soon, Hagerty echoed the sentiments of many republicans on the national stage: It’s an attempt by House Democrats to undo the election of 2016, not an impeachment of merit.
“I think the people here in Tennessee can see this entire charade for what it is, the way the House conducted themselves is an embarrassment. The way they set the rules, the way they called witnesses, the way they reviewed things in secret, it was a process that’s nothing short of a kangaroo court,” he said. “I think what you’ll see is a much more serious process under leader McConnell. They’re going to use the same rules, as I understand it, that they used with (President Bill) Clinton. I’m sure they’ll hear the arguments, look at the evidence, and make a decision about what they’re going to do with the witnesses.”