Donald Trump

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.

Or subscribe here.

Trump to speak in Memphis, Harris to give commencement speech at TSU

Former President Donald Trump and current Vice President Kamala Harris have upcoming speaking engagements in Tennessee.

Harris is scheduled to deliver the commencement address at Tennessee State University in Nashville on May 7, NBC News reports.

“Commencement marks a major milestone in our students’ lives, but to have the Vice President of the United States as your guest speaker makes this moment even more special for our students and their families,” TSU President Glenda Glover said in a release.

Trump is coming to Memphis as part of his “American Freedom” tour on June 18, the Daily Memphian reports. The roster of speakers is also expected to include Donald Trump Jr., commentator Candace Owens, and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Ortagus raises $600K despite fight over eligibility

Republican Morgan Ortagus has raised nearly $600,000 for her congressional bid despite persistent questions about whether she will be able to appear on the primary ballot for the 5th District.

Ortagus made a big splash when she landed the endorsement of former President Donald Trump, but state lawmakers overwhelmingly passed legislation to require people seeking to run in party primaries for Congress to have lived in Tennessee for at least three years. Ortagus moved to Nashville last year. A legal challenge is pending.

Here is the fundraising release from the Ortagus campaign:

NASHVILLE, TN — Team Morgan Ortagus today announced that Trump-endorsed conservative Morgan Ortagus raised nearly $600,000 in the first six weeks of her campaign to represent Tennessee’s 5th Congressional District. Team Morgan Ortagus has over $550,000 cash on hand.

“Our team is building momentum every day, as Middle Tennesseans make it clear they want their next Congressman to fight for our conservative values and President Trump’s America First agenda,” said Morgan Ortagus. “I’ve never run for public office before, and I’m truly humbled by the outpouring of support we’ve received in the first two months of our campaign. Together, we’re going to take back the Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives and fire Nancy Pelosi once and for all.”

Morgan Ortagus is an active U.S. Navy Reserve Officer and a business executive. She served in President Trump’s Department of State and has received President Trump’s “complete and total” endorsement.

Read the lawsuit filed against congressional residency requirements in Tennessee

The House meets at the state Capitol in Nashville on June 1, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

A lawsuit has been filed in federal court in Nashville seeking to prevent a state law from going into effect that would impose a three-year residency requirement for congressional candidates in Tennessee. The challenge was filed on behalf of three residents who say they want to vote for Republican Morgan Ortagus in the the open 5th District race. Ortagus has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump, but state lawmakers have chafed at her candidacy because she only moved to the state a year ago.

The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Eli Richardson, who was appointed to the bench by Trump. The lawsuit was filed by the Washington, D.C., law firm Dickinson Wright PLLC.

As frequent offenders when it comes to typos, we wouldn’t ordinarily make a point of highlighting the mistakes of others, but misspelled words in the lawsuit are particularly jarring given their central nature to the arguments presented. They include “Tennesse,” “Represenatives,” “unconstitional” “Repulican,” “impermissably,” “Consitution,” “Congressionl,” and “critreria.” They are replicated within the full text of the complaint below:

BARBRA COLLINS, AMY C. DUDLEY and DONALD J. SOBERY, PLAINTIFFS v. STATE OF TENNESSEE, and TRE HARGETT in his official capacity as Tennessee Secretary of State, DEFENDANTS.)

COMPLAINT

Plaintiffs Barbra Collins (“Collins”), Amy C. Dudley (“Dudley”), and Donald J. Sobery (“Sobery”) (collectively, “Plaintiffs”), file this Complaint against Defendants State of Tennessee (the “State”) and Tre Hargett (“Hargett”), in his official capacity as Tennessee Secretary of State, (collectively “Defendants”), and allege as follows:

NATURE OF THE ACTION

1. This is a civil action seeking damages and declaratory relief arising under the Qualification Clause of the United States Constitution. U.S. Const. Art. 1 § 2; U.S. Const. Art. 1 § 5. This action challenges the constitutionality of Tennessee Senate Bill 2616/House Bill 2764 (the “Provision”) that imposes an impermissible residency requirement on candidates running for United States Congress Specifically, the Provision requires that a candidate running for United States Congress reside in Tennessee, as well as within the congressional district they seek to represent, for at least three years in order to appear on the primary ballot as a candidate.

2. This Provision will become law unless Governor Bill Lee vetoes the legislation.

3. Under the challenged Provision, an otherwise constitutionally qualified candidate for whom Plaintiffs intend to vote in the Republican primary for the Fifth Congressional District, will be prohibited from running because she has not lived in Tennessee for at least three years. The Provision blatantly violates Article I of the United States Constitution (the “Constitution”) because the Constitution delineates the only qualifications necessary to serve as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, and vests with the House of Representatives the exclusive authority to judge the qualifications of its own members.

4. Plaintiffs seek damages and a declaration that the Provision is unconstitutional so that all qualified candidates who wish to run for Congress in the August 4, 2022 primary election may do so.

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House backs off delay on residency requirement for congressional candidates, sends bill to governor

House members attend a floor session in Nashville on Jan. 12, 2021. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

A bill seeking to require congressional candidates to have lived in Tennessee for at least three years before they can seek office is on its way to Gov. Bill Lee’s desk after the House dropped its effort to have the measure apply to the election cycle after this one.

If signed into law, the measure could imperil the 5th District candidacies of former U.S. State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus and music video producer Robby Starbuck. Ortagus, who moved to Nashville last year, has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump. Starbuck, a California transplant, has the backing of U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.).

A legal challenge is also widely anticipated because the U.S. Constitution only requires candidates to be at least 25 years old and live in the state they are hoping to represent.

Other GOP candidates for the open 5th District seat include former state House Speaker Beth Harwell, businessman Baxter Lee, Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles, and retired National Guard general Kurt Winstead.

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.”

Trump makes endorsement in GOP primary for 5th District

Morgan Ortagus

Former President Donald Trump is endorsing Morgan Ortagus, a former spokeswoman to then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, for the Republican nomination in the new-look 5th Congressional District. Provided, of course, that she becomes a candidate for the seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Nashville).

Ortagus is a former commentator on Fox News who joined Nashville-based Rubicon Founders, a health care investment firm launched by ex-Landmark Health CEO Adam Boehler, after leaving the Trump administration.

“I am told the very strong and impressive Morgan Ortagus is exploring a run for Congress in Tennessee’s 5th Congressional District,” Trump said in a statement issued through his Save America PAC. “I couldn’t be happier because she’s an absolute warrior for America First and MAGA!

“Morgan was fantastic in her role working with Secretary Mike Pompeo at the U.S. State Department and understands the threats posed by China, Russia, Iran and others, and will be tough, not just roll over like the Democrats and RINOs,” he said. “She serves in the U.S. Navy Reserves and will fight for our Military. She won’t bow to the Woke Mob or the Leftist LameStream Media. Morgan Ortagus will have my Complete and Total Endorsement if she decides to run!”

The only officially announced GOP candidate so far is video producer Robbie Starbuck, who has been endorsed by U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.). Others considering bids include former state House Speaker Beth Harwell, attorney and retired National Guard general Kurt Winstead, entrepreneur Baxter Lee, and Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles.

Trump endorses Harshbarger’s re-election bid

President Donald Trump has endorsed freshman Rep. Diana Harshbarger’s re-election bid.

Here’s the full statement put out by the former president’s Save America PAC:

Congresswoman Diana Harshbarger is doing a fantastic job as the Congresswoman from Tennessee’s 1st Congressional District. She is a tireless advocate for the People of Tennessee, and she fights in Congress for Strong Borders, Secure Elections, the Second Amendment, and our incredible Vets and Military. As she often says, she is an “unapologetic conservative Trump Republican,” and she will always put America First. Diana has my Complete and Total Endorsement!

Harshbarger says she will get Trump endorsement, backing from Club for Growth

A year ago, the Club for Growth was buying copious amounts of TV advertising time to bash Diana Harshbarger, the frontrunner (and eventual winner) in a crowded Republican primary for the open 1st Congressional District seat. Fast forward to last week, and Harshbarger was boasting of gaining former President Donald Trump’s help in getting the Club for Growth to endorse her re-election bid in 2022.

Harshbarger said in a meeting with Trump last week he promised to deliver a public endorsement of her. She said he also called Club for Growth President David McIntosh to to tell him to get behind Harshbarger as well. Per Harshbargers telling at the Greene County Republican Party’s Lincoln Day Dinner on Friday, McIntosh’s response was “Yes, sir.”

Here is what Harshbarger said about her encounter with Trump, according to a recording obtained by The Tennessee Journal:

“He said, ‘I am going to call David McIntosh.’ And I said, ‘By all means do that.’ And he said, ‘David, I have Diana Harshbarger here and I heard you didn’t like her last time. I think you are going to like her this time. She has voted with me 100% of the time.’ And he said, ‘Let me get her in the room.’ And I came in the room and he put it on speakerphone and he said ‘David, here’s Diana.’ I said ‘Well hey, David’ — because he wouldn’t return my calls.

“President Trump said ‘I’m going to give her my full and complete endorsement … I want to tell you to tell her you are going to give her a full and complete endorsement.’ I said, ‘That’s awesome.’ He goes ‘Yes sir, I’ll do it.’ He said, ‘Thanks Dave.’ I said ‘Thank you, David.’

Anyway, what he said was that ‘we don’t want this lost in the fervor of all this news and everything.’ And he goes, ‘I want to make sure this goes out next week.’  And he said,  ‘I want people to know that I’ve endorsed you. I’m 128 and 2.'”

Poll finds GOP voters happy with GOP in Tenn.

Gov. Bill Lee speaks to reporters after a bill signing ceremony in Nashville on May 24, 2021. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

A new poll finds Republican primary voters are largely pleased with GOP politicians and policies in Tennessee.

The survey was conducted by ARW Strategies, which is run by Andrew Weissert, who previously ran We Ask America, a pollster that received a B-minus rating from FiveThirtyEight.com.

Here’s the release:

Tennessee Statewide Survey of Likely Republican Primary Voters

ARW Strategies, a national polling firm, today released a statewide public opinion poll of likely Republican primary voters in Tennessee. The poll took the pulse on Republican voters’ opinions about party leaders, Governor Lee’s job performance, and recent legislation signed into law by the governor.

While the Republican Party in Tennessee remains dominated by former President Donald Trump, Republicans are also nearly as enthusiastic about their governor, Bill Lee. From his handling of the pandemic to recent legislation signed into law, Lee’s support among his base looks impenetrable heading into his re-election next year.

ARW Strategies was founded by Andrew Weissert, former Chief Pollster for We Ask America. His work has been featured and covered by national publications like The New Yorker, Forbes, Politico, The Hill, National Review, Newsweek, and numerous local news organizations. This poll was not commissioned or paid for by any candidate or committee. ARW Strategies conducted this poll from its own resources to discover the current state of opinion among GOP Primary Voters in Tennessee

Key Takeaways
Donald Trump remains the face of the Republican Party. A massive 90% of likely Republican primary voters have a favorable opinion of the former president, with nearly three-quarters (72%) having a very favorable opinion of him. Just 10% say they view Trump unfavorably. Additionally, of those surveyed, 75% consider themselves to be Trump/America First Republicans, while just a quarter consider themselves to be some other form of Republican – traditional, social conservative, Tea Party, Libertarian.

Republican voters overwhelmingly like Governor Bill Lee and approve of the job he’s doing. 85% of Republican primary voters have a favorable opinion of Lee, while 86% approve of the job he’s done as governor. Just 14% disapprove of his job performance and only 11% view him unfavorably. 88% of self-identifying Trump/America First Republicans approve of Lee’s job performance, with just 9% disapproving.

Governor Lee’s strong image and job performance can be directly traced to his record and recent legislation. Republicans are highly supportive of Governor Lee’s recent actions, with 83% approving of his handling of the pandemic. 86% are more likely to vote for his re-election for the recent transgender athlete bill he signed into law. 82% are more likely to vote for his re-election for the law he signed allowing Tennesseans to carry firearms without a permit, and 81% support his school choice scholarship program.

Senators Marsha Blackburn and Bill Hagerty also enjoy exceptional images with Republican voters. For Senator Blackburn, 79% of Republicans view her favorably, while 17% have an unfavorable opinion of her. 78% of Republicans have a favorable opinion of Senator Hagerty, with just 12% having an unfavorable one. Among those who call themselves Trump/America First Republicans, Senators Blackburn and Hagerty are even more popular where their images are 84% Fav/12% Unfav and 82% Fav/9% Unfav respectively.

Republicans want heavy emphasis on crime, illegal immigration and election integrity. The number one issue that Republican primary voters want the party to focus on heading into 2022, at 28%, is stopping crime and supporting law enforcement. In second, chosen by 23% of voters, is fighting illegal immigration and opposing sanctuary cities. In third, with 19%, is ensuring election integrity and preventing voter fraud.

Methodology
This poll was conducted between June 26th and 27th, 2021. In all, 600 interviews were achieved among likely 2022 Republican Primary voters in Tennessee. 324 of these responses came from cell phones. The Margin of Error for this survey is +/- 4% at a Confidence Interval of 95%.