NASHVILLE -- Tennessee Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Dr. Manny Sethi is stepping down as head of Healthy Tennessee as he pursues the 2020 GOP nomination.

The Vanderbilt surgeon's wife, Maya Sethi, co-founder of the organization that provides free health fairs, educational opportunities and symposiums, will assume the duties of president and CEO.

While Sethi is now the only major announced Republican candidate, former U.S. Ambassador Bill Hagerty, who previously served as a state economic development commissioner, is widely expected to join the contest soon.

Sethi said in a statement that when he and his wife founded Healthy Tennessee, "we did it because of our passion for the health of our fellow Tennesseans. Ten years later, that passion still drives both of us, and while I'm focused on meeting folks around our state as I seek public office, Healthy Tennessee is in great hands with my wife, Maya."

Although noting he won't be in "a leadership role for the coming months," Sethi said, "I will continue to be involved on the board and joining together with our volunteers across the state to care for patients."

The Senate vacancy came after U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., announced earlier this year that he would not seek a fourth, six-year term.

Hagerty hasn't exactly said he will run, but the former ambassador to Japan's former boss, President Donald Trump, has. In July, Trump tweeted Hagerty's anticipated plans to the world, stating he "Has my Complete & Total Endorsement!"

In his second quarter filings, Sethi revealed he had raised $542,275, much of it from fellow physicians and health care professionals not only in Tennessee, including Hamilton County, but across the U.S. Sethi also has loaned his campaign $1 million.

Democrat James Mackler of Nashville is running for his party's nomination.

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