In an exclusive report by our friends at The Tennessee Star, Tennessee GOP Chairman Scott Golden confirmed that Morgan Ortagus, Robby Starbuck, and Baxter Lee are no longer
candidates for the TN-5 GOP nomination after a vote by a select committee of the Tennessee Republican Party.
The disqualification of Morgan Ortagus, who was endorsed by former President Donald Trump one week before she announced her candidacy, has been interpreted by many as a direct attack on the former President’s status as the de facto leader of the Republican Party.
And, while Robby Starbuck is not as well-known as Morgan Ortagus, who is a former Trump State Department spokesman, he too gained his political street cred as an outspoken supporter of Donald Trump.
The declaration the three are no longer candidates for the TN-5 GOP nomination came after a vote by a select committee of the Tennessee Republican Party.
The select committee voted not to restore Robby Starbuck, Morgan Ortagus, who was endorsed by former President Donald Trump, and Baxter Lee to the ballot after they were previously removed because of verified challenges to their bona fide status.
Chairman Golden said in a statement, “This was a decision of the committee.”
The Tennessee Star previously reported that Morgan Ortagus, Robby Starbuck, and Baxter Lee were removed from the August 4 GOP primary ballot in Tennessee’s 5th Congressional District by the Tennessee Republican Party State Executive Committee (SEC).
All three had an opportunity to request that the SEC restore their names to the GOP primary ballot before the SEC sends its final list of candidates qualified to appear on the GOP primary ballot to the Tennessee Secretary of State on April 21.
The 17-member select committee of SEC denied those requests. Sources tell The Star that the appeals of Ortagus and Starbuck to be restored to the GOP primary ballot were overwhelmingly rejected in separate 13 to 3 votes. Baxter Lee’s request for restoration was rejected in a 10 to 6 vote, according to reporting by The Tennessee Star.
TNGOP bylaws allow for candidates’ Republican bona fide status to be challenged if they were not considered active members in the TNGOP, local party, or recognized affiliate, did not vote in three of the last four statewide Republican primaries, or in races where there is a Republican incumbent, have not been “vouched for” as bona fide Republicans to the satisfaction of the 17 member committee, or did not submit a filing fee.
Ortagus registered to vote in Tennessee in November of 2021 and has never voted in a Tennessee election.
Until April 19, Starbuck had not voted in a single GOP primary in the state of Tennessee. The California native registered to vote in Tennessee in July 2019, but did not vote in either the March 2020 Tennessee GOP presidential preference primary or the August 2020 Tennessee GOP statewide office primary.
Baxter Lee voted in the 2020 Democrat presidential preference primary.
Ortagus called the vote “deeply disappointing,” saying she was “a bona fide Republican by their standards, and frankly, by any metric.”
“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,” Ortagus added according to reporting by The New York Post. “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.”
Starbuck has also threatened a lawsuit if his status was challenged. It is currently unclear if he or any of the other disqualified candidates will pursue a legal challenge.
However, the TNGOP’s ruling is on very strong legal ground and is protected by statute, reports The Tennessee Star.
TN-5 GOP nomination
Tennessee GOP Chairman Scott Golden
Tennessee Republican Party State Executive Committee (SEC)