Live from Music Row Friday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed the Memphis Entrepreneur Jeff Webb to the newsmakers line.
During the third hour, Webb discussed his motivation for the recent endorsement of Tennessee Senate candidate Dr. Manny Sethi. He described his decision as being one based on the fact that Sethi embodies the American dream, is a political outsider and would be an advocate for small businesses.
Leahy: We are joined now on the line by our very good friend. An entrepreneur from Memphis Jeff Webb. The guy who is the founder of Varsity Spirit and really invented the modern cheerleading industry. Also the founder and chairman of the New American Populist, which is a political organization dedicated to restoring America’s middle class. Jeff, welcome. You made some news yesterday.
Webb: Good morning Mike. How are you?
Leahy: I’m great I’m great. Tell us what you did yesterday.
Webb: I was very happy to announce my endorsement of Manny Sethi for Senate in Tennessee. I had an opportunity to spend a good bit of time with Manny a couple of days ago and got to know him better. Such an impressive person and so dedicated the citizens of Tennessee. Just a very refreshing, honest, straight to the point approach to what needs to be done. And it’s exactly the kind of guy and the kind of person that we need as our Senator here in Tennessee.
Leahy: Well you know about small business. You started Varsity Spirit from scratch and now it has revenues approaching $2 billion with 8,000 employees in 50 states. That’s a track record of great success. You are also a champion of small business. Tell us, was there anything in the campaign discussion that made you think or decide in your view that Dr. Manny Sethi would be better for small businesses?
Webb: A couple of things. I don’t really know Bill Hagerty personally or I’ve not spent any time with him. You look at things on his website that indicates that he’s supporting. Those things are mostly things that I agree with. Then you also look back and realize that he was the finance chairman for Mitt Romney’s campaign and Jeb Bush was his candidate of choice prior to the last election cycle.
That just kind of raised a red flag for me. But beyond that, it’s really more about the positives that Manny brings to the table. And there are a lot of them. As far as business and a particular issue that kind of pushed me over the edge Mike, when Hagerty announced his strong endorsement by the US Chamber of Commerce that was the last straw for me.
Leahy: Yes. The Chamber of Commerce has been promoting I guess you might call a more of a globalist open borders agenda. Is that how you viewed it?
Webb: Yes. Absolutely. I think that most people who really aren’t as involved in business hear the Chamber of Commerce they think it’s just, oh it’s just pro-business and pro-small business. That’s not the truth. We are not talking about your local Chamber of Commerce. That’s a completely different thing. This is the US Chamber of Commerce. And the kind of issues you just mentioned they have been proponents of.
They are not a friend of small business. They are not a friend of middle-class Americans and middle-class Tennessean. They do things that are actually harmful to us. So that was kind of a final straw and they made such a big deal out of the fact that the US Chamber of Commerce was supporting Bill Hagerty. That was it for me. That is something that we don’t need.
Leahy: But I think generally you are talking about the positives of Dr. Sethi’s candidacy. Most people look at that race and on an issues basis for the most part it’s hard to distinguish them on the issues.
Webb: Well yes, as far as what the candidates are purporting are their issues. For me, it’s not what you say and what you do. I go back again and I look at the kind of businesses that Bill Hagerty’s been involved in. It’s consulting. It’s private equity. It’s not like a real operating business out there.
Then you look at what Manny Sethi has done and an incredible American success story. And has given so much through his surgery and his non-profits where he’s helped everyday citizens in Tennessee. He just rings a real authenticity when you are with him. He’s smart. He’s engaging. He’s sincere. He’s tough. He’s not a professional politician. He hasn’t been around the edges of politics his whole life.
And the other thing I think is that I believe that with the personality and intelligence and the fact that he’s been this outstanding trauma surgeon, I think Manny Sethi will be a leader in the Senate. And that is something that this state really needs.
We need someone who is high profile and influential and will speak at a national level on behalf of the citizens of this state. I think he is that guy. And I think we’ve got a great opportunity to make a big step forward if we can get Manny Sethi elected to the Senate.
Leahy: So what’s been the reaction from your friends in the Memphis business community and a lot of friends on the grassroots side. You kind of appeal to both sides. What kind of reaction has your endorsement gotten from those folks?
Webb: I’ve gotten the kinds of reactions that you might expect. (Chuckles) You talk about the establishment kind of the Republican Party in Tennesse very much behind Bill Hagerty. And as I’ve said, I don’t know him. I’m sure he’s a fine person. But for me, he just doesn’t line up with where I think we need to be going as a country.
And at the grassroots level, there are a lot of people thrilled that I came out for Manny. And I think his campaign is happy as well. I think people will look at Manny as an outsider. Somebody who will answer any question. He’s very open and very transparent. I think it’s just refreshing.
You get a sense when you see Manny or when you talk to him about how authentic he is. He doesn’t need a job. He’s got a great job. He doesn’t really need the money. For him it’s like what can he do to help our state and our country. And that to me just trumps everything else no pun intended.
Leahy: No pun intended. (Webb laughs) It trumps everything else! (Webb laughs) You brought it up. President Trump has endorsed Bill Hagerty. Manny has been supportive of the president but hasn’t received the endorsement. How do you think that’s going to play out in the primary on August 6?
Webb: Well I don’t know. Would Manny like to have the president’s endorsement? Well of course. But there is no doubt in my mind that Manny will be a great ally for the president. He’ll be a great spokesman for him. He’ll take on the tough issues. And that after the primary and he heads to the general election I’m sure President Trump will be a big supporter.
Some of President Trump’s candidates in the last couple of weeks that he’s been very supportive of in Colorado and North Carolina were actually beaten. Those were more kind of establishment candidates and they were beaten by newcomers and outsiders that had kind of a fresh new identity.
And they had a fresh approach. I think that people in our state while they are very supportive and certainly of the Republican Party of President Trump and his policies I think they are going to make up their own minds of who represents the best. And I think that’s going to be Manny Sethi.
Leahy: The election is August 6. Do you have plans to be on the stump at all for Manny? Are you just going to go to press releases? What are your plans?
Webb: We are still talking about that with this campaign. And I think there are some upcoming dates that I’m looking at that I think could be leverage to help the campaign, especially with the small businesses community. That’s one of the main areas that I’ve offered to assist on.
Leahy: It sounds like you’ve chosen your guy. It’s interesting because when we listen to our listeners call in our listeners have been pretty much split 50/50 between these two candidates. And I think probably endorsements may have an impact on the outcome so we’ll follow it closely.
Webb: It’s a race!
Listen to the full third hour here:
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