Tennessee Republican Party Has Received and Verified Eligibility Challenges to TN-5 Candidates Morgan Ortagus, Robby Starbuck, David Vitalli, and Baxter Lee

Baxter Lee and Morgan Ortagus

Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Scott Golden confirmed to The Tennessee Star that the state party received and verified challenges to the Republican bona fide status and ballot eligibility of TN-5 carpetbagger candidates Morgan Ortagus, Robby Starbuck, and David Vitalli.

Baxter Lee’s status has also been challenged, likely due to his vote in the 2020 Democrat presidential preference primary.

Golden said, “The Tennessee Republican Party has received and verified challenges to Morgan Ortagus, Robby Starbuck, David Vitalli, and Baxter Lee,” he said, before pointing out that the TNGOP has to wait until after the Tennessee Secretary of State’s April 7 congressional candidate qualifying petitions deadline. “The party is not empowered to do anything right now per state law. The party is going to ask for their voting record or ask for local support. The party is empowered to remove them from the ballot after April 7.”

Golden also noted that there is still time for more challenges to be submitted as more candidates declare. Furthermore, he told The Star that the party is paying attention to the status of residency legislation that is pending in the Tennessee General Assembly.

According to Chairman Golden, a committee made up of Tennessee GOP state executive committee (SEC) members will meet after the April 7 filing deadline. The committee will have 15 voting members, including Golden. The makeup of the committee will be SEC members who represent areas that make up the new 5th Congressional District.

The Star previously reported that Chairman Golden had said earlier that any Republican 5th Congressional candidate whose bona fides are challenged prior to the April 7 petition filing deadline are considered off the GOP primary ballot unless and until they provide the SEC with evidence that they do indeed qualify as bona fide Republicans.

Challenged candidates are able to restore their eligibility by providing a voting history document that shows that they voted in three out of four of the most recent statewide primary elections or they are vouched for as a bona fide Republican in writing. The SEC  will then vote whether or not to allow the challenged candidate on the August 4 GOP primary ballot.

The TNGOP bylaws state:

The challenge is made to the State Chairman from two or more registered voters from within the district that the candidate is running in. A statewide candidate could get challenged from any area of the state, while a congressional candidate could only be challenged from that congressional district. All the individuals making the challenge must “voted in at least three (3) of the last four (4) most recent Statewide Republican primary elections. Such a challenge must be made no later than five (5) days before the deadline for removal of a candidate’s name from a ballot under TCA Section 2-5-204 or otherwise, or any other applicable deadline.”

Other candidates in the TN-5 GOP primary include former Speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives Beth Harwell, former Brig. Gen. Kurt Winstead, Natisha Brooks, and Stewart Parks.

Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles has not publicly announced a decision on the race and state Senate aide Tres Wittum’s entry is still under consideration, although he is collecting petitions. Former Williamson County GOP Chair Omar Hamada is said to be very close to making a decision about his entry into the race and is collecting petitions as well.

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Aaron Gulbransen is a reporter at The Tennessee Star and The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected]. Follow Aaron on GETTR.
Photo “Baxter Lee” by Baxter Lee.





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4 Thoughts to “Tennessee Republican Party Has Received and Verified Eligibility Challenges to TN-5 Candidates Morgan Ortagus, Robby Starbuck, David Vitalli, and Baxter Lee”

  1. […] eligibility challenges to some 5th District GOP congressional candidates, including others besides the two I’ve mentioned, have […]

  2. Dwayne Oxford

    Conservatives are SICK of RINOs being allowed to run as Republicans.
    GOP/RNC are pretty much TRASH!!

    1. 83ragtop50

      Dewayne – You just described the vast majority of state and national elected GOP politicians.

  3. David H

    A Democrat has won Tennessee’s 5th Congressional District continuously since 1875 – over 145 years. It isn’t guaranteed that a Republican will win if a conservative runs as an independent and splits the vote. They should encourage all conservatives to run in the Primary so there is one conservative candidate. If a candidate with strong name recognition like Starbuck runs as an independent it will split the vote and the Dem might win.