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 potential candidate for Tennessee’s 5th Congressional District, Omar Hamada, to the newsmaker line to discuss his position on his candidacy for this race.
(Omar Hamada clip plays)
Leahy: And so here it is, March 21st, two weeks after you said that, here in-studio, that today was your drop-dead date about whether you’re in or out of the 5th Congressional District race. What is your answer? Are you in or out?
Hamada: Here’s the answer, Michael. Drum roll. (Laughs) I’m waiting on my good friend Andy Ogles to make a move and decide what he’s going to do. And here’s why: I think there are two strong Conservatives in this race, and I think – a potential race, or potential candidates – I think that’s me and Andy.
And I feel that if we both get in, we’ll divide the vote, and someone who’s not a staunch Conservative will win. So I think that this race is so important.
I think what’s happening in our country is so important that I don’t want to dilute the waters. So if he gets in, I don’t. If he doesn’t, I do.
Leahy: You have made some news. You have made some news. And I think that’s an acceptable answer, by the way, because you said the circumstances have changed.
And so the news is, if Andy Ogles gets in the race, you will not get in the race. And if he does not get in the race, you will get in the race.
Hamada: And if he gets in the race, then I will fully support him. And if he doesn’t, then my hope would be that he would fully support me.
Leahy: That’s a pretty significant statement you’ve just made there. Tell us about your relationship with Andy Ogles and why that is such an important consideration on your part whether he gets in or not.
Hamada: Well, one, we’re good friends. We go way back. A good friend of ours that has since passed away introduced us years ago, a guy named Rob Barbee. We just developed a strong relationship.
And I have an affection and deep respect for him and what he stands for. And I think he does for me as well. I think that we’re both formidable candidates for various reasons. I think for me, it’s my time in the Special Forces as a combat veteran.
It’s the fact that I’m a strong constitutional Christian conservative, that I have undeniable Republican bona fides, that I’m consistently conservative, and many other reasons. But for him, I feel like it’s very similar.
I mean, he’s proven his mettle. For me. This isn’t about ego. This is about purpose and destiny. And not just destiny; duty is the better word. I feel like our country is in a place that it’s on fire, and we need people up there who are going to do what they say they’re going to do and who aren’t up there for a career, but who are up there to turn this thing around.
And I think that he and I are probably the only two in that position that aren’t going to just vote as we’re told to vote, but actually do what’s right as far as our constituents and the American people.
Leahy: You know, it’s interesting, Omar, because rarely am I surprised by these kinds of questions, but I am surprised by your answer. I think it’s a very thoughtful answer. And here I was about to give you a hard time.
(Laughter) And I was about to give you a hard time for not giving us a definitive answer on your two-week deadline. But I think that is definitely a very thoughtful answer.
And I think it’s also a selfless answer on your part because people, when you pull papers and you start thinking about this, you start to get some ego involved. And you think I could do a good job.
But I think what you’re telling me is there’s a path for a constitutional conservative to win in this race. And what you’re saying is, yeah, I’m a constitutional conservative, but Andy is also a constitutional conservative, and we don’t want to split the vote there. That’s pretty much your decision on it.
Hamada: Exactly. And I think ego is certainly a factor, and we all struggle with that. But I think at the end of the day, if that’s the issue, then we don’t deserve to be there.
I think that the issue has to be the purpose behind the race and what we’re trying to do. So that’s what it comes down to.
Leahy: Now in your decision-making, did you talk to your family, your children about this, and what was their sense about it?
Hamada: Yes, I think they are very supportive either way. But I don’t think any of us really fully appreciate the cost involved. I mean, I do more so, because of people I’ve talked to. And I have a campaign team ready to go.
I have people on the sidelines that say they will jump in if I pull the trigger. And I’ve talked with some very high-profile national folks as well, as you know, I think. My boys are what concern me.
We’ve been through a really hard three years with everything – they’ve been through the wringer, and I want to make sure they come out okay at the end. And that’s my primary concern.
Leahy: Sure. Kids are very important. So let me ask you this. You also said something interesting. I think this 5th Congressional District race is the number one GOP primary being looked at around the country.
Hamada: I agree. And it’s attracting so many people, at least three carpetbaggers. My words, not yours. Robby Starbuck, Morgan Ortagus, and David Vitalli.
And then another dozen or so folks have already either pulled papers or announced. But what’s interesting is to look at, and you referenced this, the lineup of sort of the national-level political consultants that are involved here.
Our friend Ward Baker, for instance, is working with Morgan Ortagus. Chip Saltsman is working with Baxter Lee. Chris Devaney is working with Kurt Winstead, Beth Harwell has a world-class political consulting firm. And I know that you’ve been talking to some high-level folks on your end as well, right?
Hamada: Exactly. And sometimes it’s hard to make a decision because people have got their game together. It’s hard to cut through the flock and decide who’s going to do a really good job. But I think I found my guy.
Leahy: We’re not going to say his name here. I think I know who it is, but you’ve got a national-level guy who would be your general consultant if you get in.
Let’s talk about this. How much money is it going to take to win this primary and what percentage of the vote will it take to win this primary on August 4?
Hamada: I’m not a professional politician, but from people that I’ve spoken with, it looks like – I have a hard time believing this, and this is something else that I struggle with. It’s like when we spend that much money, I mean, it feels almost like a waste that can go to so much better use sometimes than winning a political race.
But I think this is going to cost anywhere from one and a half to $2 million, I think, to win in a short four-month sprint. And it depends on how many people get in, and how many strong candidates get in.
It doesn’t matter that 20 people pull papers. I think some of these people might not get more than a few hundred votes. But I think it’s probably going to take 21 to 25 percent, which isn’t huge. But you’ve got to identify your target market and go after it.
Leahy: Every vote will be fought for and lots of money will be spent on every vote. And you said one and a half to $2 million to win. I think it’ll take $3 to $5 million, depending, to win.
Leahy: This will be a full employment for a Republican political consultants campaign, right? (Laughter)
Hamada: That’s right. Here’s the thing, I’ve even got a chief of staff identified – somebody who’s been up there for about 30 years, and the person that this person was representing is stepping out. But it’s an exciting time. But the thing is, it’s all dependent. So we’ll see what the Lord opens up, and if He does and if He doesn’t.
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