republican party

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.”

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.”

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.

Democrat Potts won’t run for state House again next year

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

State Rep. Jason Potts (D-Nashville) won’t seek another term in the General Assembly next year, The Tennesseans Natalie Allison reports. Potts missed 21 of 34 legislative days this session, telling the paper the job doesn’t pay enough, that he wants to spend more time with his young family, and that he was “discriminated against” by the Republican supermajority.

Potts is the second lawmaker to say he won’t be returning next year. Republican Rep. Bruce Griffey of Paris has said he wants to run for a judicial seat or district attorney general in 2022. Several other lawmakers are expected to step aside with redistricting looming.

“I’m not going to run again when I’m discriminated against every day,” Potts told the paper about his inability to get legislation passed.

House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) rejected Potts’ assertion as “utter nonsense.”

“In order to pass legislation, you should be in the General Assembly to actually run a bill,” Sexton said.

Republican executive committee rejects challenge of Mannis’ primary win

The Tennessee Republican Party’s executive committee has voted 43-18 against a motion to remove Eddie Mannis as the Republican nominee in state House District 18.

Mannis won the primary by 99 votes over real estate agent Gina Oster, who challenged the outcome based on allegations of crossover voting by Democrats.

Mannis will face Democrat Virginia Couch in November.

Here’s a statement from Tennessee Democratic Party Chair Mary Mancini about the GOP proceedings:

Republicans are scrambling to find a candidate who can beat Virginia Couch and all they had to choose from is a political flip-flopper and a far right extremist, both are wrong for the district and neither of them are the candidate House District 18 needs, wants, or deserves.

Tennessee GOP to decide whether to overturn result of Knoxville House primary

The state Capitol on March 16, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The Tennessee Republican’s Party’s state executive committee is scheduled to hold a conference call Wednesday evening to decide a challenge of businessman Eddie Mannis’ 99-vote win over real estate agent Gina Oster in the GOP primary for an open state House seat in Knoxville.

Oster, who had the backing of conservative activists, claims Democratic crossover voting made he difference for Mannis. Of course, there’s no way to say from whom voters cast their secret ballots and a counter-argument is that they might have been voting for Oster to give Democratic nominee Virginia Couch an easier path toward victory in November.

Local party activists had sought to keep Mannis off the ballot entirely because of moderate positions and his vote in the Democratic presidential primary in March. But Party Chairman Scott Golden turned back that challenge after Mannis was vouched for by Republican luminaries such as Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs, U.S. Rep. Tim Burchett, and state Sen. Richard Briggs.

Former Knoxville Mayor Victor Ashe has been keeping a close eye on proceedings, and reports in his column that Knox County executive committee members Jane Chedester and Michele Carringer (herself the GOP nominee to succeed retiring Knoxville Rep. Bill Dunn) have indicated they support retaining Mannis’ nomination. So has incumbent Rep. Martin Daniel, who isn’t seeking re-election.

Here’s Ashe’s take:

Defeated GOP legislative candidate Gina Oster keeps trying to snatch a win from Eddie Mannis…. It is hard to believe that a committee in Nashville would discard the valid election result. Oster previously lost a school board contest to Doug Harris. If Oster is handed a nomination she did not win fair and square at the ballot box, the Democratic nominee, Virginia Couch, would become the odds-on favorite to win in November.

As The Tennessee Journal reported recently, the district is no longer a lock for Republicans. Daniel won just 51.5% of the vote in 2018, slightly underperforming the 53% received by Bill Lee in the governor’s race and by Burchett in his bid for Congress. And fellow Republican Marsha Blackburn got just 46% of the district’s vote in the U.S. Senate race against former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen two years ago. While 57% voted for Trump in 2016, the president’s numbers are expected to be far weaker this year.

Given the increasingly swing characteristics of District 18, the GOP attacks on Mannis are all the more perplexing. As a well-respected businessman and founder of a nonprofit organization flying veterans to visit war memorials in Washington, Mannis’ more moderate leanings appear to make him a stronger candidate in the general election. But he clearly wasn’t the choice of hardliners who contributed to Oster during the primary. They included House Majority Leader William Lamberth, and Reps. Daniel, Clay Doggett, Rick Eldridge, Johnny Garrett, Bruce Griffey, and Chris Todd.

Bush is back! Senate candidate restored to GOP ballot

Byron Bush, the U.S. Senate candidate who caused widespread consternation with his Super Bowl ads railing against state judges, has been restored to the Republican primary ballot.

Bush, who also ran for the U.S. Senate nomination in 1994, had failed to survive a challenge of his bona fides last week because he had only voted in two out of the last four Republican primaries (party standards require participation in three of four GOP primaries). But his appeal was granted this week after being vouched for by Nashville Republican Party Chair Jim Garrett and state GOP executive committee members Mike Callahan, Joanne Davis, Anita Taylor Hodges, and Ken Meyer.

Here’s Bush’s statement:

Nashville, TN—Today, Dr. Byron Bush announced that he has successfully beat back attempts to block him from the August primary ballot, saying:

“I’m pleased to report that our campaign has defeated an attempt by one of my opponents trying to use obscure rules to limit Tennessee Republican voters’ choice of candidates on the ballot.

I remain committed to bringing the strong conservative leadership we need in representing our values and leading by an example of personal integrity in the U.S. Senate at this pivotal time for the country. We can face these challenges with faith, not fear! 

I find it disturbing that a leading contender for Tennessee’s next Senator would undertake shady tactics like this, rather than stand on the strength of their own character and record. 

For my part, I pledge a different approach. The Republican Party has always stood for the importance of individual liberty and the right to make up your own mind. We are strongest and most united as a party when we honor that tradition, and so I will continue to work to bring together Republicans of all different backgrounds. Now is a time to work with one another to get our citizens back to work and get the government bureaucracy out of the way of individuals and businesses trying to weather the troubled economy. 

I deeply appreciate the Tennessee Republican Party members who vouched for my Republican bona fides, took a stand for what is right, and helped ensure that we will have many qualified candidates on the ballot competing for this important position.”