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 the new official guest host, Aaron Gulbransen, in-studio to weigh in on the TN-5 GOP candidate field and fundraising efforts thus far.
Leahy: In-studio, the new official guest host of The Tennessee Star Report, Aaron Gulbransen, and, of course, our lead political reporter at The Tennessee Star.
By the way, a note on Grant Henry, Grant did a fantastic job for us here as official guest host, and he’s now gone off to manage the 5th Congressional District race of Andy Ogles.
Great job by Grant here at The Tennessee Star Report, and we certainly wish him well there and will hear back from him again in the future, I would think. Now, Aaron, you’re a political junkie.
You’re a political nerd, you know all the details, you know all the stories. You get it right. We hired you. You’d been, you’d moved to Tennessee after years in Virginia. You know our friend John Fredericks very well, who’s the radio host that is our partner in Virginia with The Virginia Star, The Georgia Star News, and The Pennsylvania Daily Star.
You know all those guys, you know John. And you know the ways of politics. You were here with, what, the American Center for Law and Justice for a period of time?
And then, we hired you. And you’ve been covering this 5th Congressional District race. It’s a fascinating story. Redistricted from Jim Cooper, was Democrat plus-20, all of Davidson County, little bit of Dickson, a little bit of Cheatham, but a safe seat for decades, for a century, for the Democrats.
Redistricting now, and it’s got the lower third of Davidson County, the western half of Wilson, the eastern half of Williamson County, and all of Marshall, Maury, and Lewis counties.
It’s been a wild, wild GOP primary race. How does it compare to some of the other congressional district races that you’ve participated in in Virginia, as a consultant, and that you’ve written about and covered in your other journalistic efforts?
Gulbransen: I don’t think anybody’s campaign headquarters has burned down yet, and hopefully will not. I’ve seen that happen before.
There was also a candidate I worked with in a primary, he staged a fake wedding and pretended to be married to his girlfriend in order to garner votes.
Leahy: You’re kidding? It’s not to that level.
Gulbransen: It’s not getting to that level. We’ve had a lot of party intrigue and a number of things like that. But right, you know, right now we’re pretty much in the fundraising and grassroots phase.
Leahy: So let’s talk about that. There are nine qualified candidates, three disqualified candidates – we’ll talk about the disqualified, briefly. Baxter Lee, a guy from Tennessee and Tennessean for many, many years, was disqualified.
He voted on two out of the four recent primaries. Morgan Ortagus was endorsed by President Trump, but disqualified, and apparently is not challenging that in court. We have a tweet from her, by the way, that just came out yesterday.
Kind of interesting. It’s a picture of her at the state department. She was former spokesperson for Mike Pompeo. The tweet said, I’ve been fighting for America all my life. Neither sexism, anti-Semitism, nor the threats of communist China and their Iranian regime have ever kept me down.
I have NEVER, caps, missed an opportunity to raise my hand and serve our incredible country. More to come tomorrow. Dot-dot-dot. So that’ll be interesting, to see whatever she has to come tomorrow.
Gulbransen: Some build-up! It better be worth the hype she’s putting out.
Leahy: We’ll find out. And then the other disqualified candidate Robby Starbuck. He filed a lawsuit in federal court. Smacked down.
Gulbransen: That is putting it mildly.
Leahy: The judge said, no, you don’t have a case here, and he’s trying to raise money, apparently, to file a lawsuit in state court. I think it’s a little bit too late. He might file something, but I don’t think it’s going to go anywhere.
So, those are the three disqualified candidates. Now, for the nine qualified candidates. Let’s see if I can do these from memory. You have former Speaker of the Tennessee House, Beth Harwell.
You’ve got the Mayor of Maury County, Andy Ogles. Former retired Brigadier General Winstead; Jeff Beierlein, A West Point grad and a combat veteran, Black Hawk pilot, a 15-year executive here in health care in Tennessee. Stewart Parks, Geni Batchelor, Tres Wittum, Timothy Lee, and … who am I missing? I’m missing one other. There’s one other in there somewhere?
Gulbransen: There is, but your …
Leahy: I did okay.
Gulbransen: The human brain tends to go in for the ones who actually have a chance.
Leahy: Natisha Brooks!
Leahy: Sorry about that, Natisha.
Gulbransen: She actually gives one heck of a speech.
Leahy: She’s a good speaker.
Gulbransen: She’s an amazing speaker.
Leahy: We had a couple straw polls, one in Wilson County, GOP, that Andy Ogles won. Kind of going away. And Natisha was in second place there, Beth Harwell was third place. Straw poll down in Marshall County, Andy Ogles won.
Kurt Winstead in second place down there. How is the money playing out? I suppose when you look at these primaries, you got to say who’s got the money. If you had to say who’s in the game, who would be in the first tier of raising money?
Gulbransen: You have Andy Ogles. It’s very unusual that he released his finance numbers in the middle of the quarter which demonstrates how strong they were. It was around $443,000
Leahy: It was $453,000. He officially got in the race on April 6th. The FEC accounting period ends March 31st, the other candidates disclosed their first quarter fundraising. He got in officially April 6.
30 days later he announced he’d raised $450,000. I think it was all from within the district, from what I recall of that press release. That’s pretty strong. Who else is strong on the money side?
Gulbransen: Beth Harwell is very strong. She raised $380,000 in five weeks.
Leahy: That was, as of the end of March.
Gulbransen: So who knows what she’s been doing now. I know that they’ve been circling a number of national endorsements with the campaign.
Leahy: They’re looking at some national endorsements? I didn’t know that.
Gulbransen: Predominantly women’s groups that they’ve earned, some of which they’ve already gotten, like Maggie’s List. But there are some others. And I’m not going to blow up their file.
Listen to the interview:
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