MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The Republican primary in the race for U.S. Senate in Tennessee is getting national attention as we approach Election Day, with pundits eyeing the impact of a Trump endorsement among Republican voters.
Texas Senator Ted Cruz traveled to Memphis on Monday to stump for Manny Sethi.
“It’s the conservative warriors who are marching in side by side with the president, and I’m confident that’s what Manny will do,” said Cruz. “I’m proud to be here to support this campaign.”
There are 15 candidates on the ballot in the race, which Politico has termed “the nastiest Republican primary in the country,” with attack ads a-plenty.
Sethi, a Nashville doctor, and Bill Hagerty, a businessman and former U.S. ambassador to Japan round out the top of the ticket. Memphis doctor George Flinn is also in the race, but a poll in July showed him with 3% of the vote.
Hagerty is endorsed by President Donald Trump and sitting Tennessee Senator Marsha Blackburn. Sethi said Monday he supports Trump, with or without the president’s direct endorsement.
“You’ve got to change the culture in Washington, and right now basically, it’s a career politician, a Washington insider, versus someone who comes from outside of government, and that’s why I think the choice is very clear,” said Sethi.
WMC Action News 5 political analyst Michael Nelson said Hagerty started as the front runner, but Sethi is surging late.
“Somehow this Nashville surgeon Dr. Manny Sethi has been able to close the gap according to polls,” said Nelson. “The expectation was that for Republican primary voters in Tennessee, having the support of President Trump would be a game-ender, nevermind a game-changer.”
The Republican Senate primary is the big-ticket item on Thursday’s election day list locally.
The Shelby County Election Commission says they mailed out more than 19,000 absentee ballots because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Election officials have four new scanners in place to begin processing the absentee votes on Election Day, in what they’re calling a trial run for November. Administrator of Elections Linda Phillips said it’s possible they could receive 160,000 absentee ballot requests leading up to the November race.
Officials Monday were setting up areas at the Shelby County Election Commission operations center for 60 workers to process absentee ballots in Thursday’s primary election. A typical election only requires eight absentee ballot workers, she said.
“You have to be very careful when you process absentee ballots,” said Phillips. “You have to have a deliberate process, because you don’t want to scan any twice. And you don’t want to skip scanning any. So we have a very rigid process set up.”
As for Hagerty, a campaign spokesperson said he will be in Memphis Tuesday at a private event. He is also scheduled to do an interview with WMC Action News 5.