Tennessee Republicans voted Tuesday to remove former State Department spokesman Morgan Ortagus and two others from the August primary vote in the state’s 5th Congressional District.
Voting marked the culmination of months of efforts by both GOP lawmakers and activists to launch Ortagus because she just moved to the state recently. She is endorsed by former President Donald Trump.
“I am extremely disappointed in the SEC’s decision,” Ortagus said in a statement, referring to the party’s State Executive Committee. “I’m an honest Republican by their standards and frankly by any number. I’m even more disappointed that party insiders at the Tennessee Republican Party don’t seem to share the commitment. with President Trump’s America First policies.
“As I’ve said it all, I believe that voters in Middle Tennessee should choose their representatives – not those in the founding party,” she continued. “Our team is evaluating options before us.”
The state GOP executive committee has the authority to remove candidates from the primary vote for not complying with party regulations, which requires a candidate who has voted in three of the last four GOP primaries, as well as actively participates in state or local Republican parties. The committee voted to remove Ortagus and other candidates such as Robby Starbuck and Baxter Lee, who were also challenged, GOP State President Scott Golden said.
In recent years, The party has defeated several candidates for not meeting the qualifications. Golden said last month that party leaders in the county can help keep challenging candidates from disqualification by certifying them before the committee, even if the candidates’ voting records do not match. accordance with party law.
Ortagus’s campaign argues that she meets all of the state party’s regulations – voting in enough of the recent GOP primaries, participating in Republican women’s groups and closing contribute to the state party. In a statement ahead of the vote, Ortagus said she spent several weeks speaking with members of the State Executive Committee “about my core conservative beliefs, my background in the The Trump Administration and the US Navy Reserve, and my conservative vision for our state and our country.”
“President Donald Trump believes I am the best person to fight for his America First and Middle Tennessee agenda in Congress, and I am working hard to make sure that my colleagues , including TNOP SEC members, understand why,” she said.
The primary basis is one of many around the country where Trump’s influence is being tested.
Although Ortagus entered the competitive primaries for the newly drawn District 5 in February with the former president’s “full and total approval”, her candidacy caused some Party members to disapprove. Republicans in the state and locally are upset, in part because she moved to Tennessee last year and doesn’t live in the county she seeks to represent. Her critics have highlighted her years of criticism of Trump and her support of Jeb Bush during the 2016 GOP primaries, as well as the fact that her wedding was Officially by Liberal Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg.
In recent weeks, state lawmakers have passed a bill that, if it goes into effect before the April 7 application deadline, would remove her from the primary vote. The act, which requires congressional candidates to live in the state for three years to be eligible for primaries, was overwhelmingly controlled by the GOP-controlled Legislature before the Governor of the Party. Republican Bill Lee allowed it to become law without signing after he kept it for 10 days.
Spokesperson for the Office of the Secretary of State of Tennessee told the Associated Press that the law would not apply retroactively to candidates who qualified for the vote before the deadline earlier this month.
“I voted for Trump. I support him,” Senator Frank Niceley, the Republican who leads the legislation, said in an interview last month. “I’ll vote for Trump as long as he’s alive. But I don’t want him out here telling me who to vote for.”
For weeks, rumors swirled in local GOP communities that Trump wouldn’t care if Ortagus’ bid was thwarted before voters had a chance to weigh in on her candidacy.
In the previous interview, Niceley, who was backing former House Speaker Beth Harwell in the primaries and was recently fired after he called Adolf Hitler in a speech in the state senate about homelessness, suggesting that only Jewish members of the Trump family are interested in Ortagus’ candidacy because about her Jewish faith.
“I don’t think Trump cares one way or the other,” he said. “I think Jared Kushner – he’s Jewish, she’s Jewish – I think Jared will be upset. Ivanka will be upset. I don’t think Trump cares.”
This week, Tennessee reported that Republican National Committee member Beth Campbell said in an April 10 email that they obtained “RNC sources” telling her “Trump is fine” with the state GOP removing Ortagus. off the ballot.
In a statement to The Tennessean, Trump spokesman Taylor Budowich denied Campbell’s claims. He did not respond to a request for comment from NBC News.
“It’s a dirty lie that shouldn’t surprise anyone, as there are RINOs in Tennessee trying to quietly pull the strings and illegally remove the endorsed candidate,” he told The Tennessee. of President Trump, Morgan Ortagus, from the ballot. “RINO” is an acronym for “Republicans Only”.
Meanwhile, Starbucks, a right-wing figure who moved to District 5 in 2019 and is backed by pro-Trump influencers and several prominent lawmakers, has resisted the state party process. , adding that he did not respond to the primaries request because of “a simple mix.”
“All my life, I’ve only registered with one party, and I’ve only donated to Republican candidates,” he said in a statement last month, adding, “Doesn’t allow me to be at the party. the ballot would disqualify a very large portion of our electorate in Tennessee, discourage people from participating in the process, and most of all it would haunt the dirty politics of which many people distrust our election.”
Starbuck, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment, tweeted a video Tuesday night of the late Breitbart News founder Andrew Breitbart saying a word: “War. ”
Key Features There are about a dozen candidates in the county mostly south of Nashville. District 5 is currently held by longtime Representative Jim Cooper, a Democrat who announced his retirement after the release of a new Republican-held Legislature voting map. and the district has skewed to the right.