Note: Read coverage of opponent Manny Sethi's Wednesday visit to Chattanooga here.
U.S. Senate candidate Bill Hagerty began his election day campaigning in Chattanooga to propel local Republicans to vote for him in Thursday's GOP primary.
As polls opened across the state to determine local elections and decide the heated GOP primary race for a Senate seat being vacated by Republican Lamar Alexander, Hagerty, a self-proclaimed "true conservative," urged prominent local conservatives to vote for him over physician and proud outsider conservative Manny Sethi.
"I'm glad to be starting here. I feel really good about the way things are here, and I thank all of you for creating such a wonderful foundation. The energy that we feel here is just stupendous," Hagerty said to the room of local Republican leaders—including Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond, U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann and State Sen. Bo Watson— citing a local gathering of some 300 supporters at a local farm on Wednesday night.
Hagerty, who says he will feel nervous until the race is called but is confident in the outcome, says he started the morning with media appearances encouraging voter turnout because he represents the true conservative values of Tennesseans.
"We need to send a real strong message that conservative values are Tennessee values," he said to the crowd at Wally's Restaurant in Chattanooga. "I think people know who the conservative candidate is to vote for here. We just need to get that message out."
Hagerty, former U.S. Ambassador to Japan and endorsed repeatedly by President Donald Trump, says that he is the one true Republican running for office and the only candidate qualified to work with the Trump administration to defend conservative beliefs from the Senate seat.
"If they'd like to send a Christian, a conservative businessman with deep working experience with this administration, someone who's a proud pro-life father of of four, who's pro- Second Amendment...someone they know will stand with law enforcement, that they know will stand with the men and women in our military and our veterans, I'm their clear choice," Hagerty told the Times Free Press.
"I want to make certain that America never becomes a socialist nation, and that the freedoms we enjoy are protected under there for the next generations to go."
Polls will be open in Hamilton County for the Senate primary and local elections including the Hamilton County school board from 8 a.m.- 8 p.m. Thursday.
For more information on voting, visit the Hamilton County Election Commission.