NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — If there was any doubt, even President Trump said Tennessee “has a real primary” on the Republican side of its U.S. Senate race.
Both former U.S. Ambassador to Japan Bill Hagerty and Vanderbilt Medical Center trauma surgeon Manny Sethi launched a flurry of television commercials Friday as Tennesseans began early voting.
The two Republicans are considered the major contenders for the GOP nomination in the August 6 party primary to replace retiring U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander, but its Hagerty who has the endorsement of President Trump.
Both campaigns showcased their candidates with Hagerty early voting on Friday, and Sethi being one of the draws Saturday at a longtime Rutherford County event called “T-Bones and Politics.”
“I love the president, but here is the thing: people don’t want another Washington insider,” said Sethi at the Saturday event without calling out Hagerty by name.
Sethi was with one-time presidential candidate Rand Paul at the Rutherford County event.
“I think he is the real deal,” said the Kentucky U.S. Senator standing next Sethi.
The Vanderbilt doctor knows he must carefully navigate around the presidential endorsement of Hagerty in a state Trump won with nearly 61-percent of the total vote in 2016.
While Kentucky’s senator brought hope Saturday, Sethi came with some words for the president.
“I would just encourage him not to shut down our economy again,” Sethi told WKRN-TV. “And not back down to these liberals and these Democrats who are trying to just…shut us down in fear. America is best when we are on the offense.”
That’s where Senator Paul joined the conversation saying he talks to the president every week.
“The night that Manny wins…I promise you the president will call Manny and congratulate him the next day…and support him,” added Senator Paul.
There was a bit different tone about 23-hours earlier when President Trump addressed some Hagerty supporters by phone in what was called a tele-town hall.
“You got a real primary here,” said the President as he gave voice to previous tweets about the man he nominated to be U.S. Ambassador to Japan.
“I am proud to give my good friend Bill Hagerty my complete and total endorsement,” said the president during his brief remarks Friday night.
This is a developing story. Stay with News 2 and WKRN.com for updates.