Bill Lee Donald Trump

Then-President Donald Trump, First Lady Maria Lee and Gov. Bill Lee tour tornado damage in 2020

Former President Donald Trump on Friday endorsed GOP Gov. Bill Lee’s re-election bid more than a year out from the 2022 general election.

Lee is so far facing only nominal competition in the Republican primary, though some more prominent Tennessee Republicans, including Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles, have flirted with the possibility of challenging Lee.

“Governor Bill Lee is an outsider who led the Great State of Tennessee through difficult times, without compromising his Conservative Values,” Trump said. “Tennesseans enjoy more freedom than ever before. He fully supports Law Enforcement, Strong Borders, the Second Amendment, our Military and our Vets. Re-electing Bill Lee means putting America first.”

Unlike Lee’s predecessor, former GOP Gov. Bill Haslam, the incumbent has never really publicly criticized Trump for anything, as Haslam did in 2016 when a video showed Trump condoning sexual assault of women. Lee was also slow to acknowledge Democratic President Joe Biden’s victory over Trump as the outgoing president sought to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

Going into 2022, Lee holds a significant advantage over any potential challenger. In 2018, he defeated the well-funded Democratic nominee, former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, by more than 20 percentage points, and limited public polling has shown Lee’s popularity remaining steady throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

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