5th district

Early voting down 26% in GOP primaries compared with last gubernatorial election

Republican early voting was down 26% compared with the last gubernatorial election cycle in 2018, according to data compiled by the Secretary of State’s Office.

The difference between the current election and four years ago is that there is no competitive GOP primary going on at the top of the ticket, as Gov. Bill Lee is unopposed for the the nomination to second term. But the race for the open 5th Congressional District doesn’t seem to be generating much enthusiasm either, as GOP voting in the six counties the seat is located in has been down 31%:

  • Davidson*: 10,724 votes (-51%)
  • Lewis: 1,241 votes (-13%)
  • Marshall: 2,560 votes (-7%)
  • Maury: 5,962 votes (-16%)
  • Williamson*: 14,369 votes (-3%)
  • Wilson*: 6,881 votes (-46%).

(*Note the 5th district includes about 75% of the population of Wilson, 65% of Williamson, and 50% of Davidson).

Here are the early voting totals:

County20222018Change
Anderson3,6635,347-31%
Bedford1,8933,558-47%
Benton1,5071,752-14%
Bledsoe429658-35%
Blount6,1747,929-22%
Bradley5,1868,227-37%
Campbell2,8993,618-20%
Cannon1,1171,240-10%
Carroll1,7852,224-20%
Carter2,5884,381-41%
Cheatham2,1012,618-20%
Chester1,4461,542-6%
Claiborne2,9743,366-12%
Clay7727641%
Cocke3,6213,692-2%
Coffee3,7654,224-11%
Crockett380953-60%
Cumberland4,0785,292-23%
Davidson10,72421,722-51%
Decatur1,3631,3084%
DeKalb1,9341,29649%
Dickson2,6542,745-3%
Dyer2,5112,867-12%
Fayette1,7243,494-51%
Fentress2,2452,692-17%
Franklin3,1272,84010%
Gibson2,1093,003-30%
Giles2,0452,681-24%
Grainger7031,297-46%
Greene1,6984,905-65%
Grundy89868132%
Hamblen2,0773,341-38%
Hamilton10,99311,913-8%
Hancock275459-40%
Hardeman1,0471,369-24%
Hardin1,3382,592-48%
Hawkins2,0003,535-43%
Haywood9211,125-18%
Henderson1,4742,862-48%
Henry1,8573,042-39%
Hickman2,0341,8599%
Houston898928-3%
Humphreys1,1991,265-5%
Jackson8968209%
Jefferson1,6633,860-57%
Johnson2,0852,511-17%
Knox19,46532,108-39%
Lake549639-14%
Lauderdale1,7231,10356%
Lawrence3,3422,67325%
Lewis1,2411,425-13%
Lincoln1,9821,79510%
Loudon4,2086,851-39%
Macon2,3993,548-32%
Madison4,1535,778-28%
Marion1,0101,223-17%
Marshall2,5602,753-7%
Maury5,9627,113-16%
McMinn2,0253,582-43%
McNairy1,4211,898-25%
Meigs7421,031-28%
Monroe2,5734,252-39%
Montgomery5,7346,205-8%
Moore9071,046-13%
Morgan1,2231,771-31%
Obion2,1893,021-28%
Overton1,6221,46011%
Perry6381,030-38%
Pickett489533-8%
Polk1,0371,0152%
Putnam3,2304,883-34%
Rhea2,7132,910-7%
Roane4,6135,103-10%
Robertson2,9524,680-37%
Rutherford10,58314,531-27%
Scott2,3402,806-17%
Sequatchie9431,855-49%
Sevier1,5404,538-66%
Shelby31,25833,089-6%
Smith1,8132,297-21%
Stewart1,6941,715-1%
Sullivan3,32110,312-68%
Sumner4,7427,993-41%
Tipton2,8523,905-27%
Trousdale9098517%
Unicoi6811,574-57%
Union8701,310-34%
Van Buren72340579%
Warren3,7713,36312%
Washington4,7297,116-34%
Wayne1,9441,8137%
Weakley2,1842,756-21%
White1,9562,456-20%
Williamson14,36914,861-3%
Wilson6,88112,739-46%
Cumulative293,675398,111-26%

Harwell attack ad, Winstead’s ‘dumb vote,’ and Ogles’ liens

A new set of ads are flooding the airwaves before Thursday’s 5th Congressional District primary. House Speaker Beth Harwell has a negative ad out about Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles, whom she labels as a lobbyist backed by “amnesty-loving RINOs who sell out America.”

Here’s the transcript:

HARWELL: I’m Beth Harwell and I approve this message.

NARRATOR: Who’s behind lobbyist Andy Ogles’ campaign? A D.C. special interest group that smeared Donald Trump and another shady special interest group that supports amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants. They’re spending big bucks on Ogles, because Ogles will vote for their pro-amnesty agenda. Bought and paid for by never Trumpers and amnesty-loving RINOS who sell out America. Lobbyist Andy Ogles would make the D.C. swamp even worse.

Retired National Guard Brig. Gen. Kurt Wintead has an ad out trying to blunt criticism that he voted and contributed to Democrats.

RETIRED MASTER SGT. MARK HARRIS: Someone called Brigadier General Kurt Winstead a liberal Democrat. This Davy Crockett conservative got fired up mad and called him. I served under General Winstead for five years. Turns out he cast dumb vote and a donation of two over 10 years ago. Never question General Winstead’s integrity or conservative values. I guarantee those with my life.

WINSTEAD I’m retired Brigadier General Kurt Winston and I approve this message.

And the Conservative Americans PAC is hitting Ogles for allegedly failing to pay taxes on his businesses and have the state place a lien on them.

NARRATOR: You fool me once, shame on you, Fool me twice, shame on me. Andy Ogles already fooled us. He campaigned against tax hikes. “I don’t like taxes, all taxes are evil.” Then, he got elected and backed a tax hike. The same Andy Ogles whose businesses didn’t pay their own taxes — the state had to file liens to collect. Now , Andy Ogles is trying to fool us again. Don’t get burned again. Conservative Americans PAC is responsible for the content of this advertisement.

Winstead says poll shows him in statistical tie with Harwell for 5th District lead

Retired National Guard general Kurt Winstead says new polling shows him in a statistical tie with former state House Speaker Beth Harwell and Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles trailing in third for the Republican nomination in the 5th Congressional District.

The poll of 300 voters was conducted for the Winstead campaign by Spry Strategies of Knoxville. It has Harwell with 22%, Winstead with 20%, and Ogles with 15%. Little-known Timothy Lee got the support of 10%, while Army veteran Jeff Beierlein had 9%.

Spry Strategies was the pollster of choice in the 2020 cycle for state House Republicans, who spent $72,650 with the pollster, including $17,400 by Speaker Cameron Sexton of Crossville, $15,100 by Rep. Glen Casada of Franklin, and $11,600 by ex-Rep. Robin Smith of Hixson. The Tennessee Education Association, the state’s largest teacher’s union, spent $39,100 with the outfit in the second quarter of this year.

UPDATE: Trump Nation News reports an 1892 poll of 400 likely voters has Ogles at 30%, compared with 24% for Harwell, and 13% for Winstead. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.9%.

UPDATE 2: The 1892 poll refers to the race being “a tossup in the final weeks,” meaning its likely a bit dated.

Polling website FiveThirtyEight.com gives both Spry and 1892 a B/C rating

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.

New local super PAC running ads supporting Harwell

A new super PAC called Government of the People is running ads attacking Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles and supporting former House Speaker Beth Harwell in the Republican primary for the 5th Congressional District. The new group’s treasurer is Debra Maggart, a former state House member and lobbyist.

Here’s the transcript:

NARRATOR 1: DC money flooding into Tennessee, backing lobbyist Andy Ogles for Congress. Why? They want Congress to immediately prioritize amnesty for illegal immigrants. Amnesty. If Andy Oglels wins, he owes them, not you. Lobbyist Andy Ogles. You just can’t trust him.

NARRATOR 2: But you know Beth Harwell. She keeps her word. She cut our taxes. She’ll build Trump’s wall. Tennessee conservatives back Beth. Government of the People is responsible for the content of this advertising.

The ad appears to refer to past positions taken by Americans for Prosperity. Ogles was once the group’s state director and lobbyist.

The School Freedom Fund, a super PAC linked to the Club for Growth, is also out with new ads attacking Harwell and retired National Guard Brig. Gen. Kurt Winstead, another leading candidate for the GOP nomination.

Here’s what the narrator says:

Prices are soaring under Joe Biden. But in Tennessee, he’s not the only one to blame. As state House speaker, Beth Harwell rammed through a 28% gas tax increase. That’s why Beth Harwell is a Biden Republican. Imagine the damage they’d do together in Washington. Kurt Winstead is no better. Winstead bankrolled the liberal Tennessee Democrat Party. Winstead and Harwell. Too liberal for Tennessee. School Freedom Fund is responsible the content of this ad.

Harwell was speaker when the General Assembly passed a 6-cent gas tax increase in 2017. While she voted for the measure in the end, saying she “rammed” it through is a considerable exaggeration. Throughout most of the debate on the measure, Harwell pushed for finding ways to fund road projects without resorting to the gas tax hike, a position that angered many fellow Republicans.

The same super PAC is also running ad ad featuring spliced together commentary by Ogles at a recent candidate forum. Here’s the transcript:

OGLES: When this administration attacked Americans by weaponizing COVID, I refused to comply with the mandate. I told Biden he could pound sand. I want Washington D.C. out of Tennessee. Our education system has been hijacked through critical race theory. I’m willing to say no. This administration picked a fight and it’s a fight they’re going to get. My name is Andy Ogles, I’m fed up and I want my country back.

NARATOR: School free for those responsible for the content of this ad.

The ad ends with an image of Ogles with former President Donald Trump, who has not endorsed any of the remaining candidates in the 5th District race.

Boxes overflowing with 5th District mailers

If you live in the 5th Congressional District, you may want to make sure you keep emptying your mailbox. Otherwise, it’s likely to overflow.

Here is a sampling of mailers that have gone out to area residences this week:

Continue reading

Winstead dips toe into negative ads

Republican congressional candidate Kurt Winstead is dipping his toe into the attack ads that have characterized the closing phase of the 5th District race. The commercial follows a new ad from Harwell, a former state House speaker, attacking Ogles as a “tax raiser” and a lobbyist. Ogles, the mayor of Maury County, is a former lobbyists for the state chapter of Americans for Prosperity.

Winstead, a retired brigadier general in the Tennessee National Guard, starts out his latest spot with photos of rival Republicans Beth Harwell and Andy Ogles, calling them “career politicians.” Here’s the transcript:

NARRATOR: Our choice for Congress? Two career politicians or tough conservative Republican general Kurt Winstead, an outsider. Winstead’s plan for America will slam our border shut. Return a gallon of gas to two bucks. Winstead will put our country first.

WINSTEAD: If you want a politician, I’m not your guy. If you want to fighter for conservative values, I’d really appreciate your vote. I’m retired brigadier general Kurt Winstead. I approved this message.

The ad features Winstead perusing the border with Mexico and footage of gas being pumped into a vehicle. Here it is:

Early voting down so far from last two gubernatorial cycles

Early voting through the first six days of the period was down 23% compared with the last gubernatorial election cycle in 2018 and 22% from 2014. Republican turnout has been 24% less than four years ago, when Gov. Bill Lee was first nominated for governor in a competitive primary. Democratic early voting is down 30% over 2018.

Shelby County has seen the biggest increase in early voting — more than 5,000 more than in 2018 — amid a competitive race for district attorney general between incumbent Amy Weirich and Democratic challenger Steve Mulroy.

Republican voting has been down by 29% in the new 5th Congressional District, which is made up of parts of Davidson (-28%), Williamson (-21%), and Wilson (-52%), and all of Lewis (-16%), Marshall (-15%), and Maury (-25%) counties. But voting is up 2% compared with 2014.

Here’s the full breakdown from the Secretary of State’s office:

County2022Change
from 2018
Change
from 2014
Anderson2,135-30%-42%
Bedford949-56%-62%
Benton1,290-2%-20%
Bledsoe207-30%-61%
Blount3,230-22%24%
Bradley1,980-46%-45%
Campbell1,798-18%-11%
Cannon592-18%-29%
Carroll1,006-29%-23%
Carter1,256-43%-55%
Cheatham1,1467%-39%
Chester8907%-24%
Claiborne1,724-13%-7%
Clay77227%9%
Cocke1,86314%17%
Coffee2,289-19%-7%
Crockett241-63%-78%
Cumberland2,080-21%-29%
Davidson6,297-30%176%
Decatur969-5%-7%
DeKalb1,10820%6%
Dickson1,446-8%-33%
Dyer1,439-4%-32%
Fayette1,137-26%-40%
Fentress1,380-18%-17%
Franklin1,8953%7%
Gibson1,096-42%-24%
Giles1,309-28%-12%
Grainger307-47%-47%
Greene862-65%-67%
Grundy63425%-31%
Hamblen1,101-28%-6%
Hamilton6,380-23%-29%
Hancock191-20%-64%
Hardeman1,343-7%8%
Hardin708-53%-42%
Hawkins875-49%-49%
Haywood863-31%-27%
Henderson604-57%5%
Henry1,232-28%-28%
Hickman1,145-4%-22%
Houston8199%-6%
Humphreys9664%-34%
Jackson587-11%-8%
Jefferson766-55%-39%
Johnson1,094-27%-35%
Knox11,091-29%-21%
Lake553-5%-21%
Lauderdale1,65154%-5%
Lawrence2,10547%18%
Lewis678-28%-37%
Lincoln1,24129%-26%
Loudon2,585-35%17%
Macon1,803-25%-5%
Madison2,730-31%-51%
Marion683-14%-24%
Marshall1,189-16%-41%
Maury2,769-35%-38%
McMinn914-48%-55%
McNairy858-37%-44%
Meigs435-33%-43%
Monroe1,433-48%-48%
Montgomery3,912-6%-27%
Moore471-24%29%
Morgan676-37%-49%
Obion1,287-35%-19%
Overton1,1656%-19%
Perry449-28%-13%
Pickett366-2%-48%
Polk78220%-41%
Putnam1,898-38%-48%
Rhea1,628-24%-22%
Roane2,328-21%-26%
Robertson1,646-39%-30%
Rutherford5,656-32%-21%
Scott1,696-11%-3%
Sequatchie504-63%-43%
Sevier751-68%-51%
Shelby28,15422%3%
Smith977-26%-32%
Stewart1,251-5%-16%
Sullivan1,477-72%-74%
Sumner2,558-38%-12%
Tipton1,330-32%-38%
Trousdale703-9%-18%
Unicoi348-53%-58%
Union471-40%-34%
Van Buren50778%39%
Warren2,307-15%18%
Washington2,203-35%-32%
Wayne975-8%-18%
Weakley1,242-33%-35%
White977-31%-29%
Williamson3,907-28%47%
Wilson3,186-55%-35%
Cumulative174,507-23%-22%

Ogles claimed he raised $453K in first 30 days, but collected only $247K in entire quarter

Turns out Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles wasn’t being truthful when he announced in May he had raised $453,000 in the first 30 days of his campaign for the Republican nomination in the 5th Congressional District. After missing Federal Election Commission’s disclosure deadline by more than a week, Ogles finally reported Saturday he had raised $247,087 throughout the entire quarter.

Another $320,000 came in the form of a loan from the candidate on April 15. Lest anyone think Ogles was counting the loan toward his total in May, he told a reporter at the time his haul didn’t include any loans.

Ogles raised another $17,315 in the pre-primary period and spent a total of $301,063 and had balance of $283,338. But $53,534 of his cash on hand is reserved for the general election, meaning he had a $229,804 balance for the primary.

New TNJ edition alert: Ogles files a lawsuit, but not his campaign finance disclosure

Andy Ogles is suing to stop this attack ad in the 5th District race.

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

— Outside super PACs ramp up attack ads in 5th District, and one candidate takes his complaints to court

— Andy Ogles, who has been targeted for his late property tax, has now missed the campaign finance disclosure deadline by a week.

— A look at key donors to Beth Harwell and Kurt Winstead (and some who hedged their bets by giving to both).

— From the campaign trail: Todd Warner cries foul over mailers highlighting FBI raid and connections to “disgraced former speaker,” competitive primaries for two open House seats in Williamson County, and Scott Cepicky’s fight for reelection.

Also: Larry Arnn says he “will likely say it again,” John Mark Windle retires from the National Guard, Torrey Harris gets arrested, and Registry member Tom Lawless blasts the attorney general’s office.

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

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