Senate refuses to back off of Tenn. residency requirements for congressional candidates

The Tennessee Senate meets on June 1, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The Senate has voted to reject a House amendment to a bill seeking to impose three-year residency requirements on congressional candidates. The bill sponsored by Sen. Frank Niceley (R-Stawberry Plains) would take effect immediately, which could preclude at least two declared candidates from running for the open 5th District seat.

The House last week amended its version of the bill to apply only to candidates running after the current election cycle. House sponsor Dave Wright (R-Corryton) said he supported the Senate version, but still went ahead with putting his chamber’s delay in his bill.

Former U.S. State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus is the highest-profile candidate whose bid could be thwarted by the legislation as she just moved to Nashville last year. Ortagus has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump. Another Republican congressional hopeful who might fall under the three-year blackout is music video producer Robby Starbuck, who has the backing of U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.).

Legislative attorneys have warned the state-imposed residency requirements could run afoul of a provision of the U.S. Constitution stating: “No Person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the Age of twenty five Years, and been seven Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen.”