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Dr. Manny Sethi meets informally with the editorial board at the Times Free Press on Wednesday, July 17, 2019, in Chattanooga, Tenn.

NASHVILLE — After boasting in a fundraising appeal of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's endorsement for his Senate campaign, newly minted Tennessee Republican candidate Bill Hagerty quickly found himself under fire from GOP rival Manny Sethi's campaign.

In Hagerty's fundraising letter Wednesday, first reported by the Tennessee Journal, his campaign notes the candidate, who recently resigned his U.S. ambassadorship to Japan to run, has "already been endorsed by President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

"Join President Trump and Mitch by making a generous donation right now," the Hagerty pitch continues. "Trump and Mitch know that Bill Hagerty is a strong conservative who we can count on to stand up to the Democrats' radical socialist agenda. And that's why Washington Democrats and their media allies are already attacking Bill."

That later drew this response from Chris Devaney, campaign chairman and senior to Sethi, a Nashville trauma surgeon who announced in June he was running in 2020 to replace retiring Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander.

"Today, Mitch McConnell — the same guy who brought us runaway spending, failed to repeal Obamacare and not building the Wall — joined Mitt Romney today, endorsing moderate Ambassador Bill Hagerty," jabbed Devaney, a Lookout Mountain resident and former top aide to Gov. Bill Lee as well as a former state Republican Party chairman.

Tennesseans "want a conservative outsider like Manny Sethi — and we don't want Mitch McConnell, Mitt Romney, or any other member of the DC Establishment 'Death Star' telling us who to vote for," Devaney said.

After Hagerty announced his candidacy earlier this week, Sethi quickly made clear he was staying put, sending out his own fundraising letter saying that "the race is now set, and the choice is all the more clear: a political insider, close friend of Mitt Romney, and the choice of the professional political class versus the true conservative outsider who has lived the American Dream in Tennessee.

"It's the consummate insider versus the conservative outsider," Sethi stated.

Hagerty, a former Tennessee economic commissioner and successful venture capitalist, previously worked with now-U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, at Bain Capital. Years later, he left his role as the state's top job recruiter in 2012 to help Romney's unsuccessful 2012 presidential campaign effort.

But Hagerty later worked in a top role in then-candidate Donald Trump's successful 2016 general election and also took a position on Trump's transition team. He later was rewarded with the ambassadorship.

And in mid-July, with Hagerty still working through the process of leaving the State Department, Trump announced his ambassador was running and endorsed him.

In the Hagerty campaign's fundraising letter, officials also said "we have to send a message that we have his back. It's CRITICAL that Bill posts the biggest fundraising haul possible to prove the liberal media talking heads wrong."

James Mackler, a Nashville attorney and Iraq War veteran, is running for the Democratic Senate nomination.

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

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