Trump-Backed 'Carpetbagger' Kicked Off Tennessee Ballot

Party says Morgan Ortagus didn't meet residency requirement
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 20, 2022 2:18 PM CDT
Trump-Backed Candidate Kicked Off Tenn. Primary Ballot
Then-State Department Spokesperson Morgan Ortagus attends a news conference in Washington, DC, Wednesday, June 24, 2020.   (Mandel Ngan/Pool Photo via AP, File)

The Tennessee Republican Party has voted to kick three candidates off the GOP primary ballot in the state's reconfigured 5th Congressional District—including one supported by Donald Trump. Party officials said the executive committee voted to remove Morgan Ortagus, Baxter Lee, and Robby Starbuck from the August primary ballot because of challenges to their candidacies, the Tennessean reports. Ortagus, Trump's former State Department spokesperson, moved to the state last year. She has been criticized as a "carpetbagger" by some Republicans and called the decision "deeply disappointing."

"I believe that voters in Middle Tennessee should pick their representative—not establishment party insiders,” she said. "Our team is evaluating the options before us." Officials said Lee was kicked off the ballot because he hadn't voted in three out of the last four Republican primary elections, though Lee's campaign spokesman, who called the move a "headscratcher," said the candidate has voted in 10 of the last 12 GOP primaries—and has donated $100,000 to Republican candidates in recent years. The AP reports Starbuck responded to the news by tweeting an 8-second video containing "dramatic music" and the word "war."

The 5th District has been Democratic since 1875 but Republicans are favored to win this year because redistricting has split Nashville's Democratic-leaning voters into three districts, Bloomberg notes. A side note: Republican Rep. Frank Niceley was strongly criticized after telling NBC that only Jewish members of Trump's family would care about Ortagus, who is Jewish, being kicked off the ballot. (Last week, Niceley said homeless people should be inspired by the example of Adolf Hitler.)

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