Live from Music Row Tuesday 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 Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles in the studio to further discuss the growing field of candidates for Tennessee’s 5th Congressional District.
Leahy: In studio with us, the Mayor of Maury County, that bastion of freedom, that turbocharged engine of economic growth, Andy Ogles. Andy, for the third consecutive week, (Ogles chuckles) I will ask you the big question.
When are you going to decide whether or not you will run for the Republican nomination for the 5th Congressional District in Tennessee in the House of Representatives?
Ogles: The 5th Congressional District, if you’re not paying attention, is worth watching. It’s a very dynamic situation. You’ve got legislation that just passed the state Senate. It moves to the state House next. You’ve got the SEC rules.
Leahy: State Executive Committee of the Tennessee Republican Party.
Ogles: And they’ll have a meeting tentatively, and that’s the operative word there within the next two weeks to look at some of these challenges to candidates in the 5th District.
Leahy: And so we do know that challenges have been made to Robby Starbuck, the Californian music video producer who registered to vote here in July of 2019. And who by his own admission, said he was not a full-time resident in the state until after August 2020.
And our friend Morgan Ortagus, who was in-studio yesterday and who registered to vote here in Tennessee for the very first time, November 29, 2021, told us she has a driver’s license from Tennessee. She got it in the summer, she says.
Ogles: Got you. Yes.
Leahy: But not exactly three years, which is what the bill requires.
Ogles: Yes. She’s about two years and what, six, seven, eight months short?
Leahy: But also, the Tennessee Republican Party is going to be looking at whether they meet certain standards, like having voted in three out of the last four statewide primaries for a statewide elected office. Robby Starbuck will not meet that standard.
We know that because he factually misrepresented his voting record here on our program, having claimed to have voted in March 2020 and August 2020. He did not. We checked him on that.
He doubled down on that false claim and then finally admitted that he did not vote in March or August of 2020 in Tennessee. He told another radio station here in town – we’ve got the transcript and did the story.
He said he didn’t vote in either of those 2020 primary elections because he was not yet a full-time resident of Tennessee.
Ogles: The important part of this for me is I want someone from our community. So to answer your question, I’m looking at it. Obviously, I’ve got a few weeks to make that decision. The filing deadline, you have to pull papers, qualify.
Leahy: Get 25 signatures from bona fide Republicans in the 5th District. And by the way, just for our listeners, if you’re new to this discussion, the 5th Congressional District since, for many years, it represented, in essence, just Davidson County. Currently, it is all of Davidson County, parts of Cheatham, and parts of Dickson.
It’s been represented by Jim Cooper since 1993, a Democrat. The district is, what? Plus-20, plus-17 Democrat, as currently configured. But the Tennessee General Assembly redrew the lines.
And now in the 5th Congressional District, you’ve got the lower third of Davidson County, the western half of Wilson, the eastern half of Williamson. I live in the district just on the very edge of it, in the eastern half of Williamson County, in the Spring Hill area, Thompsons Station, Spring Hill.
And then all of Marshall County, all of Maury County, and all of Lewis County. That’s the district. It’s gone from basically a plus-20 Democrat to, depending upon which things you look at, plus-7 to plus-15 Republican.
A likely Republican pickup. If that happens, the Tennessee delegation in the House of Representatives currently has seven Republicans, two Democrats.
It would change it if this were a pickup. Eight Republicans, one Democrat. It would be part of the possible takeover of the U.S. House of Representatives by Republicans. And so this could be very significant.
Ogles: And this will be a closely watched race. It already is. I literally get texts almost daily from various folks around the country or from Washington, D.C., sitting members of Congress, and former members of Congress wanting to get an update as to what’s going on in the 5th Congressional District and what’s going on in the General Assembly.
And so there are about five weeks until the qualifying deadline. And I’ll watch this carefully. My concern as the CEO of Maury County is making sure that Maury County is properly represented in the U.S. House and making sure we have someone from Tennessee.
And when I say from Tennessee, I realize we have a lot of transplants, but people who have moved here, they’re dedicated to our community. They’ve put down roots, they’ve voted here.
Those kinds of normal things that you would expect. And in my case, I’m from Middle Tennessee. I grew up here. My family helped found East Tennessee, and they moved out west to Nashville
Leahy: Circa 1800, your family, seven or eight generations ago, came.
Ogles: That’s right.
Leahy: You were born in Williamson County.
Ogles: Well, technically, I was born in Nashville, but I grew up in Williamson.
Leahy: Born in Nashville, grew up in Williamson County, went to Franklin High School.
Ogles: That’s right. Graduated from Franklin High School —
Leahy: Been in Maury County ever since. And by the way, for the newcomers, it’s Myrrh-ee.
Ogles: That’s right.
Leahy: It’s not Morr-ee County. It’s Maury County. Some newcomers kind of got that wrong.
Ogles: That’s right. I cheat. I use my map when I’m driving. Right. But I came up 65, I took the 40 split. And I have an idea of where I’m driving.
Leahy: And to get to Chattanooga you’ll take I-24. You know that, right? Everyone in our listening audience knows that. But now if you frame this as sort of Tennessee versus carpetbaggers – that’s one way to frame this at present – it does look like the two candidates who the term “carpetbagger” applies to, Robby Starbuck and Morgan Ortagus, are going to have a difficult time getting on the ballot for the primary.
Ogles: Yes. We’ll see. I think the votes are overwhelmingly there in the House to pass some version of Senator Niceley’s bill. The bill that would require you to live here for three years to run in the primary.
That doesn’t preclude someone from running in the general. And that’s an important distinction. That’s why it is constitutional.
Leahy: I think we asked Morgan Ortagus when she was in if she was determined to be ineligible either by the Tennessee Republican Party or by the new law that might pass. She said no, she wouldn’t challenge it in court and by implication, wouldn’t run as an Independent.
We haven’t asked Robby Starbuck that question, but he’s indicated that he would litigate. And if he’s not on the ballot, it’s unknown whether or not he’d run as an Independent. I don’t know.
Ogles: And time will tell. Strategically that would be a bad move. I think that would leave a sour taste in most Tennessean’s political mouth, if you will. But obviously, he has to make his own decisions.
But I think there’s been an overwhelming voice here of, hey, we really want you to live here first. Everything’s in context. Look at these past few years.
Look at COVID, look at the government overreach. We want to know that there’s someone who truly is vested in our community, is going to fight for us. And you’ve got some candidates running. I don’t know. There’s what, 13 or 14?
Leahy: Let’s talk about the one with the highest name recognition, who everybody knows who’s announced through candidacy for the 5th Congressional District here on this program, former Speaker of the Tennessee House, Beth Harwell.
She’s somebody who knows Tennessee and has been elected to office here since 1988. Moved here, I think, in 1973 to go to Lipscomb and stayed here ever since.
I moved here in 1991. Anybody with a brain is going to move to Tennessee, in my view. (Ogles chuckles) But she would meet many of the criteria that you’re discussing.
Ogles: Former Speaker Beth Harwell and I, we’re friends. I’ve known Beth for quite some time. But again, she fits that mold of someone who has deep roots here. She knows our community. She’s voted here. That’s kind of important to me. (Chuckles)
Leahy: We looked at her voting record, by the way. We got it. The voting records only go back to 1996. She’s voted in every Republican primary since 1996. That’s somebody who knows the community, you know?
Ogles: When you look at that bona fide test, that bona fide test is stepped by the Republican Party state executive committee, having voted in three of the last four primaries.
Leahy: Statewide primary election for statewide office.
Ogles: She checks that box. I check that box. That’s what we want to see.
Leahy: Robby Starbuck has not voted in any Tennessee Republican primary ever. Morgan Ortagus, not only has she not ever voted in a Republican primary, she’s never voted in the Tennessee election, period.
Ogles: And again, maybe that’s a technicality that shouldn’t bother me so much, but it really bothers me that she’s never voted in the state of Tennessee.
Leahy: I talk to people all the time about this stuff, and when they say, this really irritates me. What’s somebody doing coming from California or New York City and trying to tell me how we ought to run the state of Tennessee. That bothers people.
Ogles: You look at the population of the 5th Congressional District, over 760,000 people. We can find somebody to run from Tennessee. (Leahy laughs)
Leahy: Andy, you’re going to jump out and go talk to the governor and the other mayor?
Ogles: That’s right. I’ve got to head over to the Capitol and make my meeting.
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