Republican Hagerty wins open Tennessee Senate seat

Republican Bill Hagerty, center, is joined by Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., after Hagerty was named the winner of his race for U.S. Senate Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, in Franklin, Tenn

Republican Bill Hagerty has won the U.S. Senate seat in Tennessee being vacated by retiring Sen. Lamar Alexander.

The former U.S. ambassador to Japan under President Donald Trump rode the president’s endorsement to a win against Democrat Marquita Bradshaw.

During a victory party alongside Gov. Bill Lee, Sen. Marsha Blackburn and other Tennessee Republicans, Hagerty said Trump told him in a phone call that he was “very happy with the results in Tennessee.”

“Tonight, Tennesseans have proven that democracy still works and they have made their choice,” Hagerty said in his speech at a Franklin hotel. “Socialism will not stand in America. Let’s let freedom ring.”

Republicans have held both Senate seats in Tennessee since 1994. Trump remained popular enough in the state that Hagerty mentioned the president at every turn in his contested primary and the general election campaign. Hagerty is a Nashville businessman who sits on the board of a private investment firm. He served as the economic development commissioner for former Republican Gov. Bill Haslam.

The contest was decided amid the COVID-19 pandemic without a debate between the two nominees.

Trump let Tennessee voters know he would back Hagerty for the seat months before Hagerty declared himself a candidate.

Hagerty, 61, founded his own private equity and investment firm and served in several executive positions in business, including chief financial officer and chairman and chief executive officer.

Hagerty served as an adviser to former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, but on the campaign trail he criticized the current U.S. senator from Utah, who has drawn the ire of Trump supporters for voting to convict the president during his Senate impeachment trial.

Hagerty also worked on the White House domestic policy staff during the George H.W. Bush administration as a member of the President’s Council on Competitiveness.

As a minister, 50-year-old Nashville resident Melynda Kaario said her values led her to vote for Trump and Hagerty on Tuesday.

“It’s his Christian values. That’s very, very important to me,” she said of Hagerty.

Alexander said in a statement that he is “proud to support Bill to occupy the Senate seat that Howard Baker, Al Gore, Fred Thompson and I all have held.”

Bradshaw, meanwhile, said her campaign will keep fighting until all the votes are counted, saying, “Hagerty is not my U.S. senator.”

“This is not a concession speech,” she said Tuesday night at a Memphis hotel.

Bradshaw used a shoestring budget to upset a well-funded establishment candidate in the Democratic primary. That surprise win offered voters a stark contrast between the Black activist and Hagerty, who resigned from the board of a brokerage firm because the company expressed support for the Black Lives Matter movement.

Bradshaw, 46, has said she has been “one job away from middle class and one job-loss away from poverty.” Her roots in environmental justice activism go back to her parents’ advocacy to close an Army depot where waste disposal contaminated soil and groundwater, sickening residents in their neighborhood.

Hagerty commended Bradshaw on her run.

“You’ve broken significant barriers here in Tennessee,” Hagerty said. “You serve as a role model.”

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