Trump endorsed candidate removed from ballot by Tennessee GOP

The Tennessee Republican Party removed Trump-backed candidate Morgan Ortagus from the ballot on Tuesday, along with two other candidates.

The Tennessee GOP Executive Committee voted to take the three candidates off the ballot for the Congressional District 5 seat, currently held by retiring Democratic Rep. Jim Cooper, according to The Tennessean.

In addition to Ortagus, who served as State Department spokesperson under former President Donald Trump from 2019 to 2021, GOP candidates Baxter Lee and Robby Starbuck were also booted after official challenges had been filed against the three, triggering a technical removal from the ballot per party bylaws, the newspaper reported.

Ortagus did not qualify under a three-year residency requirement, having moved to Nashville a year ago — but there’s more to the story than meets the eye.

As The Tennessean reported, the General Assembly passed legislation last month to enact residency requirements in congressional primaries, implicitly targeting transplant candidates like Ortagus. Gov. Bill Lee left the unsigned bill sitting on his desk past the April 7 candidate filing deadline only to then send the legislation back without his signature, which allowed it to become law. Further muddying the waters, the newspaper noted that the Secretary of State’s office last week confirmed the requirements cannot be applied retroactively to anyone who qualified by the filing deadline.

Lee was kicked off because he hadn’t voted in three of the last four Tennessee August Republican primaries, according to his campaign manager. It’s not clear why Starbuck was removed.

Ortagus responded to her removal in a statement, calling the decision “deeply disappointing” while taking a shot at “party insiders.”

“I’m a bonafide Republican by their standards, and frankly, by any metric,” Ortagus said, according to the Tennessean. “I’m further disappointed that the party insiders at the Tennessee Republican Party do not seem to share my commitment to President Trump’s America First policies. As I have said all along, I believe that voters in Middle Tennessee should pick their representative – not establishment party insiders. Our team is evaluating the options before us.”

There are a host of other Republican candidates on the ballot – more from NewsChannel 5 Nashville: “Now on the ballot remains former Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell, Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles, former U.S. State Department retired National Guard Brig. Gen. Kurt Winstead, Geni Batchelor, Jeff Beierlein, Natisha Brooks, Sarah A. Grams, Richie Lee, Timothy Bruce Lee, Stewart T. Parks and Tres Wittum.”

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