A Tennessee state Senate staffer is considering running in the Republican primary for the 5th Congressional District and says that he thinks he’ll be the Donald Trump-endorsed candidate if he runs.
Charles Garfield Wittum III aka Tres Wittum, a senate aide to Senator Bo Watson (R-Hixson), has told The Tennessee Star that he is considering entering the already-crowded Republican field for TN-5. “I’m considering running.” said Wittum. “I’ve been speaking with state, local and business leaders. While I’ve not made an official announcement, I’ve been receiving great feedback from community and business leaders as well as a lot of support. I’ve not officially declared but I’m getting a lot of positive feedback.”
“I think I’ll be the Trump-endorsed candidate if I get in this race – and not just because I can call five politicos that can get to President Trump,” Wittum said. “I was one of the first people to endorse President Trump. When the gentlelady from New York was calling Trump disgusting, I was cheerleading him.”
The Star asked Wittum to clarify whether or not he thinks that President Trump will pull his endorsement for Ortagus. Wittum admitted that he doesn’t know whether he will or not, but he said is proud of his previous support for President Trump. “I think that after the dust settles after who qualifies and who doesn’t, I think Donald Trump will need a horse and I will be that guy. I bought my first MAGA hat in 2015.”
Wittum refers to former State Department spokesman and current Trump-endorsed candidate Morgan Ortagus, as “Advantageous Ortagus” and noted her lack of ties to Tennessee. He said, “She’s going to get a lesson in Tennessee values. That’s something I’ve been getting to learn over the last 11 years, working and learning here in Tennessee.”
Referencing her previous comments bashing Trump during the 2016 election, Wittum recalled, “At that same time, Ortagus was out there saying that he was disgusting. There were people that Trump hired probably reluctantly, that sold him out. I never sold Trump out.”
Wittum wants to make clear that while he admires and respects President Trump, he is his own man. “At the end of the day though, I’m not running on another man’s name or another man’s accomplishments. I’m Tres Wittum and I stand on my own, but I do believe in President Trump’s accomplishments and believe he should still be in the office of President of the United States.”
Wittum did have some positive words for Ortagus, while reiterating out her recent move to Tennessee. He does question her, as well as California native Robby Starbuck’s, ability to speak for Middle Tennesseans. “I do admire someone putting their name forward and looking to speak up, but how do you speak for them when you don’t know your neighbors?” he said. “The gentlelady from New York, Ortagus, and the gentleman from California, Robby Starbuck, don’t know their neighbors.”
Wittum described the work he does at the General Assembly as being a major reason why he’d make a great U.S. Representative in Tennessee. He highlights the fact that his work for Senator Watson gives him daily contact with Tennesseans. “I learned effective government and effective leadership from many qualified mentors during my time working in the Tennessee Senate. My experience has taught me what matters to people in Tennessee and on a daily basis I help Tennesseans on a variety of issues. It is a great honor to help Tennesseans with their problems.”
Wittum’s LinkedIn entry says that he currently works as a Policy & Research Analyst for the Senate Finance, Ways & Means Committee and has done so since January of 2017. Senator Bo Watson is the chairman of that committee.
His profile says his current responsibilities are to: “determine priorities for the office & serve as policy aid, media relations specialist, and advisor to the chairman of Finance, Ways & Means. Schedule & analyze bills for the committee. Informant to committee members and committee staff. Social media communications for the committee. Created & produce a monthly state revenue update video segment.”
Wittum also served as Senator Watson’s campaign manager for his 2018 election. From July 2011 until January 2017, Watson was Speaker pro tempore in the state Senate. Wittum also worked in Watson’s office from August of 2011 to January 2017.
If Wittum does seek the Republican nomination for TN-5, he would join an already crowded field that includes former Speaker of the Tennessee House Beth Harwell, businessman Baxter Lee, Natisha Brooks, California native Robby Starbuck, former Brigadier General Kurt Winstead, and recent Tennessee resident and former State Department spokesman Morgan Ortagus.
Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles has not yet announced whether or not he will enter the race.
Other individuals are collecting petitions for the Republican nomination for the 5th district. They include Geni Batchelor of Lebanon, former Williamson County GOP Chair Omar Hamada of Franklin, Timothy Bruce Lee of Nashville, Annabelle Lee of Madison, Alan Clement Sharp of Nashville, Stewart Parks of Nashville, and David Vitalli of Brentwood.
The Nashville Post previously reported that Wittum briefly served as Davidson County Republican Chair in 2017, but was removed from his post after his Republican bona fides were challenged. The Party deemed that Wittum failed to satisfy the requirement to vote in three of the last four statewide primaries for which he was eligible, and, upholding the challenge, the TNGOP state executive committee removed Wittum from his position.
To date, Wittum maintains he was bona fide, and that the TNGOP state executive committee’s decision was an error.
The Star has confirmed with Nashville elections officials that Wittum’s voting history currently satisfies the three out of four statewide primary requirement for 2022.
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