5th district

New TNJ edition alert: The Cameron Sexton interview

House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville), left, and Rep. Pat Marsh (R-Shelbyville) await the begin of the State of the State address on Jan 31, 2022. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The latest print edition of The Tennessee Journal is out. Here is what’s in it:

— TNJ Interview: House Speaker Cameron Sexton reflects on recovering from ‘trauma’ of scandals in House, building trust with Senate, and his expectations about future relations with Gov. Bill Lee.

— No cakewalk for Joe Carr in Rutherford County?

— Federal judge shoots down Starbuck’s effort to be restored to GOP ballot in 5th District.

— AG’s office confirms 5th District ballots could be changed until next month, raising questions about why redistricting fixes couldn’t have been made in time.

Also: Speculation about attorney general successor kicks into overdrive, Brian Kelsey gets another delay for his federal campaign finance case, and Memphis’ Democratic mayor backs “truth in sentencing” law.

As always, access the your copy of the TNJ here.

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Judge denies Starbuck’s effort to be put back on 5th District ballot

U.S. District Judge Waverly Crenshaw has denied music video producer Robby Starbuck’s motion to be placed back on the Republican primary ballot for the 5th Congressional District.

“Exactly why Mr. Starbuck’s name was removed from the ballot the Court may never know,” Crenshaw wrote in Thursday’s order. “His Complaint speaks of smoke-filled rooms with carpetbaggers engaged in political chicanery reminiscent of the Daley machine in Chicago during the 60’s and 70’s, and New York’s Tammany Hall in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Whatever the reason, the only question now is whether Mr. Starbuck is entitled to a preliminary injunction under Rule 65 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. He is not.”

Ogles camp announces $453K haul for 5th District bid in first 30 days

Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles says his campaign for the Republican nomination for the open 5th Congressional District seat has netted $453,000 in the first month since joining the race. Ogles didn’t officially enter the contest until the end of the Federal Election Commission’s most recent reporting deadline, so he won’t have to make official disclosures until July 15 — 20 days before the primary.

The Ogles campaign says none of his fundraising total came in the form of loans and that all contributions were from within Tennessee.

Here’s the full release:

COLUMBIA, TN – Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles raised $453,000 in the first thirty days of his bid for the 5th District Congressional seat. Ogles, who was a late entry into the race, officially became a candidate on April 6th. 

Mayor Ogles stated, “I am humbled and overwhelmed by the support I’ve received since entering the race. Not only has the fundraising response been incredible, the results in recent straw polls in both Wilson and Marshall Counties, as well as the candidate auction in Williamson County demonstrate the strength of my grassroots campaign.” 

Mayor Ogles attributes his success with the grassroots to his decades of activism where he has helped lead the charge against Obamacare expansion, government overreach and various tax increases. “Tennesseans want elected officials who will fight for them in the same way President Trump fought for us. During Covid I never wavered, I fought for freedom and liberty in the face of threats, and I will fight for Tennessee against a Federal government that has gone too far and grown too powerful,” said Ogles.

Recently Mayor Ogles made national headlines as he refused to close Maury County during Covid. Ogles actively campaigned against State and Federal mandates by holding the ‘Freedom Matters’ tour where he recruited other elected officials and TN citizens to standup against government overreach with the town hall meetings consistently drawing crowds between 500 and 800 individuals. 

Lee Beaman, a well-known businessman and conservative fundraiser, who serves as Mayor Ogles Campaign Chairman added, “I recently attended an event with several very conservative Members of Congress who were asking about the 5th Congressional Race and I told them Andy Ogles is Tennessee’s Ron DeSantis and, like the Florida Governor, Andy is a true fighter for the people and he is exactly who we need serving us in Congress.” 

Winstead hires advertising consultant Davis, Trump pollster Fabrizio for 5th District bid

Kurt Winstead (Photo credit: Winstead campaign)

Former National Guard Big. Gen. Kurt Winstead announced he has hired political ad maker Fred Davis and Trump pollster Tony Fabrizio for his Republican bid for the open 5th Congressional District seat.

Here’s the release from the Winstead campaign:

Nashville, Tenn. – General Kurt Winstead (Ret.), a conservative Republican candidate for Tennessee’s 5th Congressional District, announced today major additions to his campaign leadership team.

“We have so much momentum. Our conservative message to the Republican voters in the 5th District is resonating, and I am so excited about our senior campaign team that will help us win this election,” said Winstead.

The new additions include:

— Fred Davis, a veteran media consultant, who has advised on a number of successful state and federal campaigns including Governor Bill Lee, Governor Bill Haslam and Senator Lamar Alexander. Davis will produce the television and radio advertising.

— Tony Fabrizio and David Lee will act as pollsters for the campaign. Fabrizio and Lee are veteran consultants and pollsters. Combined, they have worked for decades on hundreds of Congressional and Senate campaigns across the country. Fabrizio also served as chief pollster for President Donald Trump in the 2016 and 2020 elections.

— The Stoneridge Group, a well-respected conservative political consulting firm based in Atlanta will lead the campaign’s direct mail and digital efforts.

The campaign previously announced its initial team, including:

— Chris Devaney is Winstead’s senior advisor. Devaney a former Tennessee Republican Party Chairman who served in senior roles on multiple winning campaigns in the Volunteer State, including managing Governor Bill Lee’s successful campaign in 2018.

— Kim Kaegi serves as the campaign’s finance consultant. Kaegi has over thirty years of statewide fundraising experience across Tennessee. Kaegi has worked for dozens of campaigns including Governor Bill Lee, Governor Bill Haslam, Senator Bill Hagerty, and Congressional campaigns of Diane Black, Tim Burchett, Stephen Fincher, David Kustoff, and Phil Roe.

— Jimmy Granbery, a Nashville businessman, is the finance chairman for the campaign.

“This campaign team is one of the best in the country and has the experience to win,” said General Winstead.

Recently, the Winstead campaign announced $1 million cash on hand after a successful fundraising effort following his formal announcement in March.

Starbuck sues over ouster from GOP ballot

Music video producer Robby Starbuck is suing over his removal from the Republican primary ballot in the 5th Congressional District. Starbuck was booted along with former U.S. State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus and businessman Baxter Lee.

“The state party is trying to go beyond the scope of what they’re allowed to do by kicking a bonafide Republican like me off the ballot” Starbuck said in a statement. “It’s the same sort of backroom trickery they tried to use against Trump in 2016 at the Republican convention — which is ironic since the state party is trying to get the next Republican convention to Nashville.”

Here’s the press release from the Starbuck camp:

Republican congressional candidate Robby Starbuck has responded to the Tennessee GOP scheme to effectively remove him from the ballot with a lawsuit, filed Monday afternoon in Federal court. The suit names the Tennessee Republican Party — which includes the State Executive Committee, Chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party Scott Golden, Coordinator of Elections Scott Goins, Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett and the office of the Secretary of State. 

The Starbuck campaign’s brief alleges that officials used secret and irregular means to prevent a free and fair election. The Starbuck campaign expects that disenfranchised Tennesseans and Robby Starbuck will be awarded relief in the form of a court-ordered reversal of the State Executive Committee’s decision, likely on constitutional grounds, to return Robby Starbuck to the ballot.

“The state party is trying to go beyond the scope of what they’re allowed to do by kicking a bonafide Republican like me off the ballot” said Starbuck. “It’s the same sort of backroom trickery they tried to use against Trump in 2016 at the Republican convention — which is ironic since the state party is trying to get the next Republican convention to Nashville. Tennessee voters won’t forgive this behind the back theft of their choice on Election Day. Disenfranchising our voters robs them of an America First candidate aligned with President Trump, leaving them with only weak alternatives — Tennesseans demand a reversal!”

Starbuck is also fighting for two of his primary opponents to be reinstated on the ballot, Baxter Lee and Morgan Ortagus. 

“This is not communist Cuba, where my family escaped from,” Starbuck commented. “In America, the party doesn’t get to just SELECT candidates that they like — the people get to ELECT the candidate they want on Election Day!”

President Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. expressed his support for Starbuck on Twitter earlier this week. .

“This lawsuit is a testing point—and hopefully a turning point—that could end backroom politics” concluded Starbuck. “We’re not going to stop fighting until WE THE PEOPLE are given our constitutional rights back.”

New TNJ alert: Fallout from GOP’s 5th District cull, compromise on ‘truth in sentencing’ clears way to adjournment

It all fits together somehow.

The latest print edition of The Tennessee Journal is out. Here is what’s in it:

— GOP ouster of three leading candidates, including Trump favorite Ortatgus, from 5th Congressional District primary reverberates in Tennessee and beyond.

— The end is near: Compromise over “truth in sentencing” bill clears path to legislature’s adjournment as soon as next week.

— From the campaign trail: Races for prosecutor heat up in Shelby, Davidson, and Hamilton counties, big money for Republican Brent Taylor in bid to succeed indicted Sen. Brian Kelsey and Democrat Caleb Hemmer in race for open Nashville House seat, and a skulduggery update.

Also:

Frank Niceley’s blames reporter for his own comments, Lamar Alexander backs parking fees at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Michael Curcio sends his campaign balance to his PAC, Todd Warner praises Dixieland Strategies, and Chris Todd channels Bob Dylan.

As always, access the your copy of the TNJ here.

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Tres is out on leave: Wittum joins 5th District race

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)

Tres Wittum, an aide to state Senate Finance Chair Bo Watson (R-Chattanooga), has joined the field seeking the Republican nomination for the open 5th Congressional District Seat.

Other candidates seeking the GOP nod include Beth Harwell, Baxter Lee, Andy Ogles, Morgan Ortagus, Robby Starbuck, and Kurt Winstead — though some of those have having their Republican bona fides challenged with the party.

Here’s Wittum’s release:

Nashville, TN – Tres Wittum announces bid for the 5th Congressional district. In a video released on Treswittum.com, Tres set a course for the campaign “ “For the first time in nearly 150 years, the Tennessee 5th Congressional District has an opportunity to pick a new kind of leadership. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been out talking to Tennesseans, listening to their concerns – but also hearing their vision and hope for the future.”

In the announcement Tres also outlined the next steps in the campaign, “In the coming weeks, I’ll be out traveling the district. If you see me, I hope you’ll stop me and share your Tennessee story, so together we can go to Washington and let them know that the Tennessee Volunteer spirit is alive and ready to lead this country in the right direction.”

Tres announced that the campaign will be sharing many of those “Tennessee stories” on the campaign website TresWittum.com as well as the campaign’s social media.

Tres Wittum has been active Tennessee politics for over 15 years. Wittum also has served the Tennessee Senate since 2011, in the Senate Speaker Pro Tempore’s office as well as the Senate Finance, Ways & Means Committee. Tres came to Nashville from Cleveland, TN in 2008. He is a graduate of University of Tennessee Chattanooga. Tres is a bona fide Republican whose credentials are unchallenged and will be on the ballot in the Republican primary on August 4th.

Starbuck raises $104K in quarter, $350K to date in 5th District

Robby Starbuck’s quarterly fundraising trails top-tier candidates in the Republican primary for the 5th Congressional District. The music video producer brought in $104,524 through the most recent reporting period, well behind Morgan Ortagus (nearly $600,000), Kurt Winstead ($520,000), Beth Harwell ($350,000). and Baxter Lee ($317,000).

But Starbuck got into the race long before his rivals and has raised $349,386 since last summer. About a quarter of Starbuck’s haul in the first quarter came in form of small, unitemized donations. He spent $71,000, bringing his total to $179,979. He had $172,265 remaining on hand as of March 31.

Baxter Lee reports $317K in donations, same again from self in 5th District race

Businessman Baxter Lee has reported raising $317,380 in outside contributions — plus a matching donation from himself — in his bid for the Republican nomination in the open race for the 5th Congressional District. Developer Steve Smith, the finance for the Lee campaign, said the campaign had $560,000 on hand at the end of the fundraising period.

Contributions include $1,000 from former senator and governor Lamar Alexander and the same amount from Crown Bakeries founder Cordia Harrington. Jim Haslam, the founder of the Pilot truck stop chain. and former CEO Jimmy Haslam each gave $2,900. as did their spouses.

Here’s the release from the Lee campaign:

NASHVILLE, TN – Steve Smith, Finance Chair for Baxter Lee, announced over $630,000 for the first filing in Tennessee’s 5th Congressional district since Lee officially announced his candidacy three weeks ago. “I have worked with Baxter for years helping Republicans all over Tennessee get elected and I look forward to doing anything I can to help Baxter win this race,” Smith said. Lee has over $560,000 cash on hand.

Baxter Lee, a Tennessee native and entrepreneur, announced that he was running for Congress at the end of March, “I am humbled and honored by the encouragement myself and my family have received during this process so far. It speaks volumes of the confidence a person has when they financially support a candidate and my first quarter shows that I am someone they are putting their trust into,” Baxter stated. “The 5th district is looking forward to finally having a conservative Congressman to represent them again and wave goodbye to Nancy Pelosi.”

Lee is an eight generation Tennessean and business owner. This is Lee’s first campaign for office but has been an influential player in the success of many Tennessee Republicans being elected to public office. In 1994, his family hosted a fundraiser for Fred Thompson and worked hard to get him elected for his first term. Senator Thompson became a mentor to Lee, and he instilled conservative ideals like more freedom and less government. His first campaign donation was to Lamar Alexander in 1999 at twenty years old.

New TNJ alert: Never mind the constitution, here’s the new state Senate districts

The Tennessee Supreme Court building is seen in Nashville on Dec.8, 2021. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The new print edition of the Tennessee Journal is out. Here is what’s in it:

— Supreme Court finds election commission deadlines are more important than pesky constitutional language on state Senate districts.

— Party politics: Lee slow walks (in)action on residency requirements for congressional candidates, dumping 5th District hot potato in lap of state GOP.

— From the campaign trail: 41 state House members get free pass to re-election, Anti-Skulduggery Act to kick in after Brenda Gilmore’s announces plans to withdraw candidacy, and Andy Ogles drops mayoral bid to focus on Congress.

Also: Scott Cepicky wants to tear public education down to the “bare bones,” Butch Spyridon denies “bait and switch” on football stadium, former Nashville Banner executive editor Joe Worley dies, and Todd Warner’s Dixieland band.

As always, access the your copy of the TNJ here.

Or subscribe here.