U.S. Ambassador to Japan Bill Hagerty is “in the process of resigning,” diplomatic sources announced on Tuesday.
The move is sparking speculation he will soon return to Tennessee where he is expected to announce his candidacy for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate.
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) announced in December he will not be running for another term in the November 2020 election, making it an open seat. When two-term former Gov. Bill Haslam, a moderate Republican who publicly stated he did not vote for President Trump in 2016, announced last Wednesday he would not be a candidate for the open Senate seat.
Within 24 hours of that announcement, two prominent potential candidates, Rep. Mark Green (R-TN-07) and former Rep. Diane Black (R-TN-06), both said they would not be candidates for the open Senate seat.
Then, on Friday, President Trump tweeted his endorsement of Ambassador Hagerty:
Tennessee loving Bill Hagerty, who was my Tennessee Victoy Chair and is now the very outstanding Ambassador to Japan, will be running for the U.S. Senate. He is strong on crime, borders & our 2nd A. Loves our Military & our Vets. Has my Complete & Total Endorsement!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 12, 2019
On Tuesday, the U.S. Embassy and Consulates in Japan released this statement:
U.S. Ambassador to Japan William F. Hagerty IV is in the process of resigning as Ambassador. He was sworn in as U.S. Ambassador to Japan on July 27, 2017 and will have served approximately two years.
Ambassador Hagerty is honored to have represented the President and the American people in his work to advance the U.S.-Japan Alliance, the cornerstone of peace and prosperity in the Pacific.
Upon Ambassador Hagerty’s departure, Joseph M. Young will assume duties as the U.S. Embassy’s Chargé d’Affaires ad interim.
The son of a Metro Nashville school teacher, Hagerty graduated from Vanderbilt and Vanderbilt Law School, became a wealthy investment banker and later served in the Haslam administration as commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development.
Hagerty is expected to announce his candidacy shortly after his resignation is officially accepted, probably in early August.
To date, Dr. Manny Sethi, an emergency room surgeon employed by Vanderbilt, is the only announced candidate for Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate in Tennessee. According to Federal Election Commission reports, Sethi raised $1.5 million for his campaign during the second quarter of 2019, but $1 million of that came in the form of a personal loan to the campaign. During that same time period, the campaign spent a little less than $37,000.
Rep. David Kustoff (R-TN-08) and former state legislator Jamie Woodson are also reportedly considering entering the race. However, President Trump’s enthusiastic endorsement–in a state he won by 26 points in 2016 and where his approval rating among likely Republican primary voters remains sky high–has likely cleared the field for Hagerty.
Whoever wins the Republican nomination in the August 2020 primary will be considered to be the heavy favorite to win the November 2020 general election.