Hagerty rides Trump support to Senate GOP win in Tennessee

NASHVILLE — Former U.S. Ambassador to Japan Bill Hagerty has won the Tennessee Republican primary for an open U.S. Senate seat behind the endorsement of President Donald Trump. Hagerty overcame a challenge from trauma surgeon Manny Sethi to clinch his party’s nomination for the seat of retiring Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander. Hagerty ignored Sethi for most of the campaign, but in recent weeks the two brawled back-and-forth in TV ads over who was more conservative and loyal to Trump. Republicans have held both Tennessee Senate seats since 1994. Hagerty will face the winner of the Democratic primary in the November election.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.

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Election Day in pandemic times has arrived in Tennessee, where voters on Thursday were deciding a heated Republican U.S. Senate primary and other federal and state contests.

Former U.S. Ambassador to Japan Bill Hagerty and trauma surgeon Manny Sethi are competing to become the GOP nominee in the race to replace retiring Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander. On the Democratic side, party leaders facing a tough climb for the seat long held by Republicans have endorsed former Army helicopter pilot and military prosecutor James Mackler over a handful of other candidates.

Polls opened at different times, with details available on the secretary of state’s website, sos.tn.gov. They closed statewide at 7 p.m. Central, 8 p.m. Eastern.

There were short wait times at some Middle Tennessee polling places early in the day, The Tennessean reported. In Davidson County, lines ranged from no waiting to less than five minutes at three precincts. Meanwhile, at least one polling place in Nashville opened late due to technical issues.

The state is encouraging voters to wear masks and follow social distancing protocols at the polls, and counties took precautions to prevent the spread of the virus at voting locations.

In Shelby County, which includes Memphis, poll workers sat behind plexiglass barriers as they signed in voters, who were allowed to keep the brand new plastic pens they used to write their names. Voters were encouraged to use hand sanitizer and they were given thin wooden sticks to avoid using their fingers to mark their selections on electronic voting machines.

George Brown, 70, wore a mask as he voted in the Democratic primary at a Memphis church. Both he and his wife said they were pleased with the safety procedures and they felt comfortable voting.

"We had concerns. We knew it would be a different process. We didn't know what the changes would be," Brown said. "I felt more distance from step to step than I have in the past."

In Tennessee, voters must bring a valid photo ID. Acceptable forms include a Tennessee driver's license or photo ID issued by the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security, Tennessee state government or the federal government, even if expired. College IDs are not acceptable.

More than 578,000 Tennesseans voted in person or through absentee ballots during the two-week early voting period.

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This story has been edited to correct the spelling of the reporter's last name in the byline.

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Associated Press reporter Adrian Sainz in Memphis, Tennessee, contributed to this report.

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