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Tennessee Republicans battle to fill Lamar Alexander's Senate seat

Nearly 600,000 residents have already early voted ahead of Thursday's contest.
Image: Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., speaks at a committee hearing on Capitol Hill on May 7, 2020.
Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., speaks at a committee hearing on Capitol Hill on May 7, 2020.Anna Moneymaker / Pool via Reuters

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Election Day in pandemic times has arrived in Tennessee, where voters on Thursday will decide 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.

President Donald Trump has thrown his support behind Hagerty, who has contended that Sethi wasn't a good enough advocate for Trump during the 2016 election. Sethi has countered by describing himself as a conservative "outsider" and criticizing Hagerty as a part of the “political establishment.”

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. If he wins the primary, it's expected to be a challenge, considering Republicans have held both of Tennessee's Senate seats since 1994.

Polls close statewide at 7 p.m. Central, 8 p.m. Eastern.

The state is encouraging voters to wear masks and follow social distancing protocols at the polls.

Voters must bring a valid photo ID. Acceptable forms include a Tennessee driver 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 absentee during the two-week early voting period.