Host Leahy and All-Star Panelist Crom Carmichael Talk Tennessee’s 5th and the Bill Expected to Pass That Would Prohibit Certain Candidates From Getting on the GOP Ballot in August


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 panelist Crom Carmichael in-studio to ponder the consequences of candidates who would not meet the newly proposed bill penned by Senator Nicely requiring candidates to be a resident of the state for the past three years.

Leahy: One of the things that we try and do on this program is to give our listeners information from people who are currently in office or seek to be in office. We have members of the Tennessee General Assembly come here all the time.

Carmichael: Regularly.

Leahy: In-studio.

Carmichael: That’s great. And your interviews with them are wonderful.

Leahy: Yes. And they’re great people. We love talking to them, and we don’t always agree with everybody, but everybody deserves an opportunity to get their voice out. In this case, Rick Shannon, an Independent candidate for Congress, I believe deserves an opportunity to get his message out, and I think we gave him that opportunity.

And we try and do that with everyone. We’ll have Democrats on here if they want to come and get their voice out. I can’t imagine they would want to be on the program, but if they would, we actually have an open invitation to Odessa Kelly, who is the AOC-endorsed candidate for the Fifth District before it got redistricted. We called her and said, “Hey, are you still in the race?” She didn’t respond to our inquiry. We were very nice and very polite.

Carmichael: So is she still in the race?

Leahy: We don’t know.

Carmichael: Okay. You don’t know.

Leahy: She hasn’t withdrawn, but we don’t know which district she’s going to run for, or if she’s in the 5th, 6th or 7th. But not talking to us. The other person not talking to us, of course, is the former Secretary of State Spokesperson Morgan Ortagus [who has] lived in Tennessee and registered to vote for all of three months. And she’s not talking to us. She is, however, talking to The Daily Caller, Fox News, Fox and Friends, and Breitbart. She’s running a national campaign.

Carmichael: She’s running her campaign the way that she thinks will be effective.

Leahy: Speaking of running campaigns, we got a curveball coming in here, and it’s a curveball that’s got a lot of juice. And so it is a bill being considered, and there will be, the Senate’s state and local committee tomorrow is going to undertake a consideration of this bill that is going to throw a big curveball into the Fifth Congressional District race.

Carmichael: If it passes.

Leahy: If it passes. And it looks like it’s got pretty smooth sailing right now, at least in the state Senate, and also some support in the state House. This bill, introduced by State Senator Frank Nicely, our friend from Strawberry Plains, the longtime veteran of the state legislature, would prohibit anybody running in, and there’s a twist here on that, a primary contest, if they have not been residents of the state for three years prior to submitting their paperwork to get on the primary ballot. Why is that interesting, Crom?

Carmichael: Well, you have two candidates in the Republican primary for the Fifth District who would not qualify if that bill were to pass.

Leahy: I believe that to be true.

Carmichael: Ding, ding, ding. Gold star for answering your question.

Leahy: Yes, you do. Of course, all the consequences of this would be quite interesting because, first, I think there is within the Tennessee General Assembly a huge resentment against newly arrived – my words, not yours – carpetbaggers who parachute in and want to tell everybody in Tennessee how to run their lives, and to pretend to understand Middle Tennesseans. There’s really a lot of antagonism towards that idea.

Carmichael: I think that may run among an awful lot of states. And so it’ll be interesting to me. The bill is very clear in what it says. And so if it passes and is signed by the governor, you’re saying it will apply to this year’s primary?

Leahy: It would apply to this year’s primary.

Carmichael: Does the bill say that, or does it even need to say that?

Leahy: No, it says it says that it goes into effect immediately. And it’s got this committee hearing tomorrow.

Carmichael: Senator Nicely is, he’s an effective legislator.

Leahy: Highly effective. We think that it’s likely to pass in the state and local committee tomorrow. We don’t know for sure. You know how these things are. Something happens at the last minute. But if it were to pass in the state Senate …

Carmichael: Does it have a good sponsor in the House? It’s about to have a good sponsor in the House, I’m told. So I think what happened is it passed in the state Senate, passed in the House, go to the governor for signature, even if he vetoes it, that doesn’t mean a lot here in Tennessee, because a majority vote can override a veto.

Carmichael: As long as they’re still in session.

Leahy: This is all going to happen before they have a session.

Carmichael: No, I’m saying that if it passed toward the end of the session, I don’t know how all that little stuff works because there’s a lot of stuff that can go on where you say, how did that happen?

Leahy: Meanwhile, of course, now there are challenges that are likely to be made on the GOP side of a couple of candidates who may not meet the standard of having voted in three of the last four most recent statewide primaries.

Carmichael: And then they still have to be approved, and they have to go before a Republican committee …

Leahy: … 0f the state executive committee. So that’s the other part of this. So you got the state legislature, likely. I think there’s a good possibility they’ll pass a law that would prohibit getting on the GOP ballot for the primary in August – either Morgan Ortagus or Robby Starbuck.

Carmichael: Now, let me ask you a question. If the assembly passes a law, does this law apply only to the GOP, or does it also apply to Democrats?

Leahy: It would also apply to Democrats, because the states control the primaries. The interesting twist on this is, remember we talked about the historical precedent of the Supreme Court decision, on the issue of whether or not states can limit participation in the general election for Congress. That was the issue in U.S. Term Limits v. Thornton.

Carmichael: This is the primary. Ahhh.

Leahy: Yes! A little clever twist there.

Carmichael: Interesting.

Leahy: But I do think it’s a very lawyer-ly twist. And so the Supreme Court has ruled that the states, in a five-four decision, very close, Clarence Thomas dissenting, that the state of Arkansas couldn’t limit participation in the general election based upon term limits.

That’s a precedent out there. But this particular bill, if it were to pass – twist – would not prohibit somebody who is newly arrived, as I understand it, from running in the general election as an independent.

Carmichael: That’s interesting.

Leahy: Then the question would be, if the bill passes and becomes law, whether the governor signs it or not, then what would a Robby Starbuck or Morgan Ortagus do?

The very first thing that they would probably do is rush to federal court, asking for a stay of the law. I don’t think they’d get it, but that’s what they’d do. Maybe they would. Who knows what effect it may have.

Carmichael: They couldn’t remain in the race without getting a stay.

Leahy: Asterisk.

Carmichael: They wouldn’t be on the ballot.

Leahy: GOP primary ballot.

Carmichael: I’m saying they wouldn’t be on the GOP primary ballot.

Leahy: But then the question would be, would they then file paperwork to run as, wait for it …

         Carmichael: An Independent.

         Leahy: Independent.

         Carmichael: Is there a deadline for that?

         Leahy: April 7.

Carmichael: If you want to be, like Rick Shannon, an Independent, you have until April 7.

Leahy: Yeah, he’s pulled the papers to get 25 signatures; he’s got to file them by April 7     Now, twist: We haven’t found any indication in any public document that Morgan Ortagus has pulled petition papers. Why would that be? I have a theory – because, according to the  state bylaws of the Tennessee Republican party, a challenge can be filed against can be filed when? After petition papers have been pulled.

I expect that Robby Starbuck will be challenged, because he hasn’t met the three out of four …

Carmichael: Who does the challenge?

Leahy: Well, a challenge can be posed by two bona fide Republicans who reside in the       district. Ironically, Morgan Ortagus couldn’t file a challenge because she has to live in the district, and be a bona fide Republican.

But I anticipate that challenges will come this week, next week.

Carmichael: High drama.

Leahy: High drama!

Carmichael: High drama, in the Republican primary. Which has never been, in my lifeftime, in Nashville. Since 1967, there has never been high drama in the 5th District Republican primary.

Leahy: There you go, we’re just making it fun and interesting for everybody in our listening audience.





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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.
Photo “Vote here’ by Tony Webster CC BY 2.0.















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