Tennessee Republican Senate Primary contenders have harsh words for each other

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Harsh words are likely to become a staple of a very unusual Republican Senate primary in Tennessee—at least between the top two contenders.

One of the stories that have emerged is that former U.S. Ambassador to Japan Bill Hagerty faces a tougher than expected test from Vanderbilt surgeon Manny Sethi.

“I am the true Trump conservative,” said Hagerty in front of a crowd of supporters after he cast a ballot on the first day of early voting in Tennessee.

In any television ad and campaign appearance, Hagerty touts his endorsement by President Trump for the Republican nomination in Tennessee’s U.S. Senate race and the conservative values he says they share.

“The values that have made America the most exceptional nation in the world,” Hagerty told reporters Friday. “President Trump believes in those values the same way I do. We are at the precipice right now where we have a radical mob, the liberal Democrats trying to push us over the cliff into socialism.”

Starting with a TV ad out Thursday, Hagerty is not abiding by President Ronald Reagan’s famous political comment: “Thou shall not speak ill of any fellow Republican.”

Case in point was a statement during Friday’s early voting event that a group Sethi created called Healthy Tennessee had board members who supported attack ads against Marsha Blackburn in her 2018 Senate race when she beat Democrat Phil Bredesen.

“Manny Sethi’s board of directors, the board he recruited, attacked Marsha Blackburn,” said Hagerty. “Manny Sethi did nothing, said nothing, and stood by while this happened and that is poor judgment and that is not the kind of conservative leadership we need right now.”  

Hagerty was not finished.

“You got a person in Manny Sethi that has donated to ActBlue. ActBlue funds Black Lives Matter. Supports Nancy Pelosi trying to take down Republicans across this nation,” continued Hagerty.

Sethi will likely have something to say about all this as he has a major campaign event Saturday in Middle Tennessee, but his campaign responded Friday afternoon.

“It’s disgusting that Bill Hagerty is attacking a non-profit that has helped save the lives of Tennesseans across the state,” said campaign chair Chris Devaney in a statement to WKRN-TV. “Healthy Tennessee is not a policy-making organization and its board is made of people who are concerned about saving lives—that is not a political issue and it shouldn’t be treated as such.”

Earlier this month both sides released polling information. Hagerty’s campaign claims a substantial lead, Sethi’s campaign claims its very close.


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