The contentious Republican primary race in Tennessee’s newly drawn fifth congressional district takes place on Thursday, pitting multiple GOP candidates against each other. The race follows an ongoing saga, as critics say party officials have reinterpreted party bylaws to block primary ballot access to congressional candidates, including Trump-endorsed Morgan Ortagus, in a district that the GOP says can help Republicans win a majority in the House.
The wide open field is the result of the reshuffling of the district by the state legislature, which appears to be Republican. The new district includes Davidson, Maury, Marshall, Lewis, Williamson and Wilson counties. Because of this, Republicans believe the winner of this race could very well defeat Rep. Heidi Campbell (D-TN) in the general election.
The primary election takes place on Thursday, August 4. Several GOP candidates are on the ballot for the newly drawn fifth congressional district, including former Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell, former Brigadier General and Tennessee Army National Guardsman Kurt Winstead, and Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles, the latter of whom was endorsed by the conservative House Freedom Fund (HFF). Notably, Harwell recently vaunted an endorsement from the Fraternal Order of Police, and Ortagus, who was kicked out of the ballot, endorsed Winstead and joined his campaign.
Other contestants include Jeff Beierlein, Natisha Brooks, Geni Batchelor, Timothy Bruce Lee, Stewart Parks and Tres Wittum. Three others were supposed to be on the ballot, but ran into a problem earlier this year.
That race remained a point of controversy after the Tennessee branch of the Republican National Committee (RNC), Tennessee’s GOP, reinterpreted its bylaws, blocking access to the primary ballot for several candidates, including Morgan Ortagus, Robby Starbuck and Baxter Lee.
Breitbart News detailed in April:
Some party insiders viewed Ortagus and fellow candidate Robby Starbuck as rug baggers, as they were new to central Tennessee, having moved there in the past two years, and so in the past few months, these Tennessee insiders GOP have devised a number of strategies to try to keep Ortagus and Starbuck off the ballot.
This effort led to a flurry of lawsuits, to no avail. The GOP state party chairman argued that the three candidates had failed to meet the GOP requirement to vote in three of the last four primary elections in the state. However, Breitbart News reported that the claims of Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Scott Golden were “contradicted by the bylaws themselves and also by public comments from another candidate and Golden himself a few weeks earlier. » :
The actual Tennessee GOP bylaws define the term “good faith Republican” in several places. In the first such case in the statutes, on page three, it says that a candidate must be called a “bona fide Republican”, he or she “must have voted in the last three Republican primaries in the statewide” in his “county of residence”. in these primary elections. This particular section describing this terminology is in the section that describes the members of the state executive committee, or SEC, of the Tennessee GOP. A footnote explains that the ballot requirement follows people who move from state to state or county to county – and that the so-called “wide Republican primaries of the State” do not need to be in Tennessee.
Either way, the state Supreme Court ultimately ruled that the Tennessee Republican Party did nothing wrong by excluding the candidates from the ballot. Starbuck, however, is running as a written candidate:
Tennessee: Don’t forget that tomorrow is election day! Our volunteers and I will be at the polls. If you have any issues, DM me and we’ll help you solve the problem, but hopefully have a nice day! If you want to help at all at the polls, email KT@Starbuck2022.com pic.twitter.com/uuwrRnAn8o
—Robby Starbuck (@robbystarbuck) August 3, 2022
The state does not have a second round, which means the candidate with the highest percentage of votes will win the primary.
“I would say that we have excellent candidates in the running. All worked extremely hard. You know, it was an interesting election because of, you know, some of the Republican Party rules that we went through, but the nine candidates that are on the ballot all worked really hard and you know, that’s does the groundwork and legwork and in a district that’s, you know, pretty compact,” Golden, the state’s GOP party chairman, told Breitbart News.
“They … all deserve kudos for coming out and putting their names out there,” he added, promising that the Tennessee GOP is looking forward “to helping the Republican nominee move forward into November.”