Dueling endorsements from Wamp, Fleischmann in Tennessee U.S. Senate race

Bill Hagerty and Manny Sethi are seen in this combination photo.

Two Tennessee Republican U.S. Senate hopefuls picked up competing endorsements from a pair of Chattanoogans on Wednesday, with former Congressman Zach Wamp announcing his support of Nashville physician Manny Sethi while current Congressman Chuck Fleischmann declared his backing of former U.S. Ambassador to Japan Bill Hagerty.

Wamp called trauma surgeon Sethi "the true conservative in the race," adding that Sethi "will stand for fiscal responsibility when so many others have buckled. He is authentic, and he will represent the people of Tennessee, not the establishment, in every decision he makes."

Wamp's endorsement came as he appeared with Sethi during the formal opening of the candidate's Chattanooga office as the Republican Senate primary heats up among Sethi, Hagerty and George Flinn, a Memphis physician and businessman.

The three each are hoping to become their party's nominee to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.

Fleischmann, meanwhile, is backing Hagerty, calling him "a trustworthy conservative businessman, just like President [Donald] Trump, who has my complete support to be Tennessee's next U.S. Senator."

The congressman praised Hagerty's tenure as the state's commissioner of economic development and as Trump's ambassador to Japan, working "side-by-side with the third-largest economy in the world to implement economic strategies that benefited both of our countries."

The competing endorsements call to mind recent 3rd Congressional District and Tennessee political history.

Wamp served as congressman from 1995 to 2011 and had launched an unsuccessful 2010 GOP primary bid for governor, losing to then-Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam, who went on to become governor. As governor, Haslam, who left office in 2019, named Hagerty as his state economic and community development commissioner. Haslam has since contributed to Hagerty's Senate campaign.

At the same time, Wamp was on opposite sides from Fleischmann, who won the congressional seat Wamp vacated and later twice defeated Wamp's son, Weston Wamp, who challenged Fleischmann in two subsequent GOP congressional primaries.

Sethi also has the endorsement of former U.S. Rep. Ed Bryant, who twice ran for U.S. Senate, losing to Alexander in the GOP's 2002 primary. Bryant later lost another Senate GOP primary to then-Chattanooga Mayor Bob Corker in a three-person 2006 race.

Hagerty has been endorsed by his former boss, President Donald Trump, who actually announced Hagerty was running with his blessing before Hagerty even officially left his ambassador post and formally announced his bid.

On Tuesday, The Tennessee Journal reported that a political action committee funded by Sethi's state finance chairman, Nashville businessman David Ingram, slammed Hagerty in a video, accusing him of having "extreme ties to the most liberal elements of the Republican party." It specifically cited Alexander and Mitt Romney, R-Utah.

During a February trip to Chattanooga, Hagerty denounced Romney, who has been critical of Trump.

The primary election is Aug. 6. Early voting in the contest begins Friday, July 17.

Contact Andy Sher at asher@timesfreepress.com or 615-255-0550. Follow on Twitter @AndySher1.