Congressional candidate Wittum escorted from GOP fundraiser after outburst

A sign in the Senate Finance Committee office in Nashville indicates aide Tres Wittum is on leave while running for Congress. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Republican congressional candidate Tres Wittum was removed from the Tennessee Republican Party’s annual Statesmen’s Dinner fundraiser after causing a disturbance when House Speaker Cameron Sexton and Lt. Gov. Randy McNally took the stage.

According to witnesses, Sen. John Stevens escorted Wittum out of the ballroom when he started loudly berating McNally, Sexton, and others. Wittum was a longtime aide to Senate Finance Chair Bo Watson (R-Chattanooga) before taking leave to run for the new 5th Congressional District.

UPDATE: Wittum responds:

This weekend Republicans from all over Tennessee came together to celebrate the accomplishments of our party and most importantly, the future of our party.  Like President Trump, I can be very vocal against the the establishment swamp — even in our party. Our state and our country are run by political establishment. I’ll stand up to my party. I’ll always stand up to the left. But in the end, I will always stand up for hard working Tennesseans and I’ll never back down.

Director of Legislative Adminstration Connie Ridley said Wittum had been informed late last month that he would not be returning to work at the General Assembly following his leave. The discussion took place before Saturday’s incident.

Sexton said Wittum’s “actions were out of character with the person we have interacted with in the past.”

”I think Mr. Wittum has had a bad week and compounded it at the Statesmen’s Dinner,” Sexton said in a statement. ”Hopefully, it was just a a one-time incident that he regrets, and we can all move past it.”

Sexton’s comments appear to refer to a social media post that made the rounds earlier in the weekend suggesting Wittum had been heavily inebriated.

McNally’s office declined to comment.

The primary election is on Thursday.