Aaron Gulbransen Talks Outside Money Influencing Tennessee’s 5th Congressional District Republican Primary

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 official guest host Aaron Gulbransen in-studio weighs in on top-three TN-5 candidates Harwell, Ogles, and Winstead but takes special note of former Black Hawk pilot Jeff Beierlein.

Leahy: For all of you political junkies, batten down the hatches – in-studio right now, the official guest host of The Tennessee Star Report and the lead political reporter covering all things Tennessee in politics, Mr. Aaron Gulbransen. Good morning, Aaron.

Gulbransen: Good morning, Michael. We are, what, nine days out from primary day here in Tennessee?

Leahy: August 4th, primary day. And by the way, just a programming note, I will be in Arizona on Friday. I think we’re going to have a meeting with Kari Lake … the GOP candidate there, Trump-endorsed.

And we’re going to be talking about developments there with The Arizona Sun Times, which is doing very well. But you’re going to be here guest-hosting for me, 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. How do you like getting up at 3:30 in the morning, Aaron?

Gulbransen: I’ll let you know when you get back. (Laughter)

Leahy: But you’ll have a very good program and people, you won’t miss a beat on Friday, Aaron will be here holding down the home front. Now, Aaron, of course, we’re in the midst of early voting, early voting in the August 4th primary for the state offices and for federal offices, particularly the U.S. House of Representatives.

And it’s the general election for the county election, school board and mayor and all that sort of stuff, at the county level. So we are nine days from Election Day. That will be a week from Thursday. What do we see going on right now? What’s voting turnout look like so far that you can tell?

Gulbransen: I think I saw something the other day of like, 11,000, just in the 5th district, but that was the number that popped up on the screen when I went to early-vote.

This is the most interesting – and I talk to people all over the country, I talk to consultants, I talk to politicos – this is the highest-profile primary in the country for a congressional district.

Leahy: The 5th Congressional District.

Gulbransen: Because you’re talking – I know you mentioned this a little bit earlier – but you’re talking, when all is said and done, with the outside money, which is going to outweigh what came in from Tennessee, but you’re talking probably north of $5 million when all is said and done, spent at least, possibly approaching $10 million, because we got nine days out and you’ve got $300,000, $500,000 ad buys going on as we speak.

Leahy: And most of that coming from outside groups.

Gulbransen: The vast majority is coming from outside.

Leahy: And the reason this is such a high-profile race is because the redistricting took a safe-Democrat district that was all of Davidson County, a little bit of Cheatham and Dickson County, which had been in Democrat hands since 1875 – that’s a long time, folks. Now, it was really very cleverly, and legally, redistricted by Speaker of the House Cam Sexton and Lieutenant Governor Randy McNally.

No court challenges filed. So it complies with the election act of 1965, the Voting Rights Act, as well. And so now the district, which was a safe-Democratic district previously represented by Jim Cooper.

He still represents it, but he’s not running for re-election, and he didn’t challenge it in court. So the district now is parts of Davidson, Williamson, and Wilson counties and all of Maury, Marshall, and Lewis counties. It’s a likely Republican seat.

Gulbransen: And it shows the outside interest – I was talking to a political consultant that I know extremely well, and his point, because we were discussing these very topics, like why the outside groups are jumping in, and part of it is how plum of a seat and an area it is, because then you get to go do events with a Republican congressman that you “control,” because you spent X amount of millions of dollars to get them elected and that sort of thing.

So it’s kind of like showcasing, we’re almost a victim of how nice our area is, because with all due respect to Oklahoma, the 5th district and some other states that have opened up, Nashville is the place to be.

Leahy: Middle Tennessee, it’s such a great place to be. So all of the outside political groups want to be players in Nashville.

Gulbransen: Yeah, that’s exactly right.

Leahy: And so the amount of money being spent is staggering. You did a story for us about Club for Growth in particular and the amount of money that’s being spent by special groups in support of Andy Ogles’ candidacy.

He’s one of the three leading contenders, the other two being Speaker of the House Beth Harwell and then retired Brigadier General Kurt Winstead.

It looks to be a battle between those three, with Jeff Beierlein kind of the fourth candidate, getting good reviews but not having enough money, is generally the sense of it.

Gulbransen: Right. And as it goes down the stretch, it’s a three-way money race, which it appears to be, at least from direct fundraising by those campaigns. And it looks like it’s turning into a three-way with a real, you know, the question is, what role does Beierlein play in this?

He is very good one-on-one, and I think when people see him speak, he’s a very attractive candidate when they meet with him. And that’s kind of the reaction I got after The Epoch Times debate that he participated in.

Leahy: And by the way, just sort of in terms of, this campaign has been filled with tactical missteps by every candidate, it seems.

Gulbransen: In some form or another.

Leahy: In some form, yeah. And that’s part of the problem. There are nine qualified candidates. There are only four who have a shot. Three, if you look at it. Jeff Beierlein is presented well, but doesn’t have a lot of money.

But five candidates were invited to The Epoch Times debate. Two of the three leading candidates, Beth Harwell and Kurt Winstead, did not participate in the debate.

I think it was a tactical error by both of their campaigns. Andy Ogles was there. I think he won the straw poll. Jeff Beierlein did well in the straw poll and Tres Wittum was there as well. But generally speaking, the performances that were good that night were Ogles and Beierlein, not so much Tres.

Nice try, Tres, but just sort of not exactly on-point, it seemed to me. And then the opportunity to make your case, for whatever reason, Winstead accepted, didn’t accept, according to whoever you talked to.

Listen to the interview:

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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.



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