Dr. Carol Swain and Crom Carmichael Discuss the Candidates for the Hotly Contested Fifth Congressional District of Tennessee

Tennessee Capitol Building as viewed from Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park in Downtown Nashville.


Live from Music Row Monday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed all-star panelists Crom Carmichael and Carol Swain in studio to weigh in on the Fifth Congressional District candidates and identity politics.

Leahy: As we promised, we’re gonna kind of scope out the potential field of candidates in this new 5th Congressional District, which includes Marshall County, Maury County, Lewis County, parts of Davidson, parts of Williamson, parts of Wilson County.

It’s a +11 for Trump in the 2020 election, a change from the +22 that the 5th District used to be, assuming it passes court muster, which I believe it will.

Robby Starbuck, we talked about him quite a bit.

Arrived here from California in 2019. He’s got a lot of national endorsements. So he’s one of the candidates, and we’ve demonstrated he’s going to have a problem qualifying for the ballot. He might qualify. He might get vouched for.

We’ll see.

Carmichael: But getting vouched for isn’t, he has to get vouched for it, and then the committee has to accept the voucher.

Leahy: Exactly. Which I think is problematic, actually.

Carmichael: I just want to be sure that I understood what that process is because as long as I’ve lived in Tennessee, this part of it is news to me. But go ahead. That’s interesting.

Leahy: Yes. They changed the bylaws recently. We talked to Chairman Scott Golden, a very good guy, about it. We’re going to have him in studio here, talk in more detail about that process.

But other than Robby Starbuck, there’s a big potential field, and we’re going to hear some announcements probably within the next couple of weeks. Mayor of Maury County, Andy Ogles, is mentioned.

He will be in the studio with us tomorrow morning at 6:00 am. We’ll talk to him. A former state speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives, Beth Harwell. She has been in studio with us.

She promised if she announces, she will make that announcement here on this program in studio. So she’ll be making a decision, I think, in the next couple of weeks. Kurt Winstead, the former Brigadier general in the Tennessee National Guard, is rumored to be interested in it.

A fellow by the name of Baxter Lee, a businessman from the Belle Meade area of Nashville who apparently Chip Salzman is advising, is apparently on it. And Donald Trump has already weighed in, asterisk, on this race.

The asterisk is the newly arrived Tennessee resident Morgan Ortegas, who never lived in Tennessee before 2021, was born and raised in Florida, worked in Washington, D.C., and New York City.

Was the spokesperson for the Trump administration State Department from 2019 to 2021, registered to vote here in Nashville in November, like a little over two months ago. President Trump, for reasons known only to him, announced that if she runs, he has her full endorsement. Carol, your thoughts?

Swain: You know I think highly of former President Trump, but I kind of wish he would stay out of Tennessee politics because the candidates that he has endorsed are not necessarily the candidates that many of us think to represent Tennessee.

And so here we have another carpet bagger. I think we should stick with the candidates, well, I think the Devil you know. I prefer the Devils we know.

Leahy: Crom, your thoughts on the former President endorsing for a newly opened, likely Republican-leaning congressional seat someone who has not lived in Tennessee for a full year yet. I can tell you for sure that she’s never voted in the Tennessee primary.

Swain: She’s not qualified.

Leahy: No, actually, she would be qualified.

Swain: Why?

Leahy: Because there are two standards. You’ve got to be active anytime before the filing deadline. But in addition to that, you have to be either have voted in three of the last four GOP primaries.

It doesn’t have to be in Tennessee. It has to be wherever you live. We’re checking that out. And then you have to have somebody vouch for you. You could get in if you’re vouched for. And she might be vouched for. I don’t know.

Swain: She’s already been vouched for. (Chuckles)

Leahy: Well, by the President, but that’s a very good point. He’s not on the executive committee that’s going to decide if she’s eligible. Yes, probably she would likely meet that standard.

Carmichael: My biggest concern is, is that if you have five people running and a number of them are good, solid, wonderful people, put Beth Harwell and Andy in that category.
They’re known quantities.

But if you have dispersed the field and the Democrats have nobody running in their primary, if they only have one person running, they’re certainly capable of doing this intellectually. They’re capable of doing this. When you go to vote in a primary, you say, I’d like to vote in the Republican Party.

Leahy: It’s an open primary.

Carmichael: It’s an open primary, or you can vote in the Democrat primary. What I’m concerned about is Democrats going to the polls asking for a Republican ballot saying, I want to vote in the Republican primary, and then they all amongst themselves vote for a candidate that then does not represent Republican values.

Leahy: That’s it.

Carmichael: And Robby Starbuck might very well fit that category. I’m not saying he does. I don’t know him, but I want to emphasize I don’t know him, and that bothers me.

And Democrats have done this type of thing before, and so I worry about that. I hope that the state Republican Party made sure that the candidates that are on the ballot are people that whoever wins, we can be proud to stand behind.

Leahy: Very good point. Carol, Morgan Ortagus is not an announced candidate, yet. I think that if she is to announce, it would be probably within a week or so. And I believe that if she does announce, she will be very shortly here in studio and we’ll ask her the questions.

And Morgan, I’m sure you’re a very nice person, but we are going to ask you this important question. So just be ready for it. Why on earth should Tennessee Republican voters in the Fifth Congressional District vote for someone who by any definition is a carpet bagger who’s lived here for less than a year and who’s never voted in a Tennessee GOP primary?

Swain: I think the Republican Party is very focused on identity policy. It’s just like the Democrats. And so that she fits certain categories that they find appealing. And so the Republican Party is becoming more diverse.

And I think that they feel that they have to show that they are not racist and so that they would like to support someone other than your traditional, old-fashioned white male.

Leahy: (Laughs) She looks at Crom and me.

Carmichael: Beth Harwell is not white and male.

Swain: No; but she’s white.

Carmichael: But you said white and male. You sound a little bit like Biden. (Laughter)

Leahy: We take your point. We’re making fun of you. But it’s a very good point.

Swain: And so I think that that is a plus factor. And with Robby Starbuck, we keep hearing Cuban American, but Cubans are Caucasians, so that means they’re white.

I think identity politics, it’s ruining America, and we don’t want anyone who plays it. I want the best-qualified person.

Leahy: And the race could turn out to be the Tennesseean versus the carpet baggers. I don’t know which one would be the Tennesseean.

Swain: I’m for the people who share my conservative views.

Leahy: Exactly.

Carmichael: Is Starbuck a Cuban name?

Leahy: No.

Swain: No.

Leahy: Let’s get back to the naming thing.

Carmichael: Like Marco Rubio.

Leahy: His legal name is not Robby Starbuck.

Carmichael: It’s not?

Leahy: His legal name is, we think it’s Robert Starbuck Newsom. At least I’ve seen documents on his voter registration in California. I have not seen his birth certificate.

Swain: I tried to do research on him, and I could not find anything about his parents.

Leahy: Nobody knows his parents. And I think what his claim is that his mother when she was a child and her parents left Cuba, this would be like the 1960s. He was born in California in 1989, more than 25 years after that exodus.

And I don’t think his father was Cuban. So it’s a bit of a stretch. It’s like saying, Crom, I’m Irish-American. Well, I am Irish-American.

My great great grandfather was born in Ireland. His mother apparently was born in Cuba, according to him. But it’s a little bit of a stretch to say that he’s suffered as Cuban.

Carmichael: Well Newsom, it doesn’t sound Cuban. That’s all I’m saying.

Leahy: Well, we’ll find that out.

Carmichael: We have the Pocahontas story with Elizabeth Warren having ridden her Indian heritage throughout her life, and it turned out she didn’t have any.

Leahy: I think we will be investigating that. These are other questions to ask. And there’s a lot of the problem is it’s back
to what you were talking about, Carol, there’s a lot we don’t know about Robby Starbuck, and there’s something we don’t know about Morgan Ortagus as well.

Swain: I don’t want identity politics to be central in this race. I want the best-qualified conservative. And hopefully, the people in Middle Tennessee will vote for their values.

Leahy: I think that’s a very good hope. And we’ll end on that optimistic hopeful note. You always bring hope and good cheer, Carol.

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.





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