residency requirements

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.”

Pompeo endorses former spokeswoman Ortagus in 5th District

Morgan Ortagus

Former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has endorsed former spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus for the Republican nomination in the 5th Congressional District.

Ortagus landed the endorsement of former President Donald Trump before formally announcing her bid earlier this month. Some state lawmakers have chafed at her candidacy because she and her husband have only lived in Nashville for a year. A proposal to require a three-year residency to run in congressional primaries is awaiting a floor vote in the Senate, but has yet to gain any traction in the House.

“I’ll leave state matters to the state legislature,” Ortagus said in a statement last week. “I’m focused on earning the support of the 5th District Tennesseans who want a conservative fighter to defend President Trump’s agenda.”

Here’s the release from Pompeo’s Champion American Values PAC:

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo today endorsed Morgan Ortagus for Tennessee’s Fifth Congressional District. 

Speaking about his endorsement, Secretary Mike Pompeo said, “A Republican majority in the House of Representatives is critical to stopping Joe Biden’s extreme agenda, and that means we’ll need to win in multiple Democrat-held seats throughout the country. In Tennessee’s Fifth Congressional District, I can’t think of a stronger candidate than Morgan Ortagus. Morgan played a critical role in our administration’s efforts to put America first and to restore American greatness to our foreign policy. She has served her country honorably in the executive branch and in our military, and I know she’ll continue to champion the American values we share in Congress. I encourage all freedom-loving Tennesseans in the Fifth Congressional District to join me in fully supporting Morgan in the primary this August.”

“I’m humbled to be endorsed by Secretary Pompeo, a man I was honored to work for on behalf of the American people,” said Morgan Ortagus. “Together, we stood firmly against authoritarian regimes like China, Russia, Iran, and Cuba both at home and around the world. In Congress, I’ll continue to fight for freedom and to preserve the American Dream. The forces of communism seek to forever snuff out the flame of liberty– Mike Pompeo and I won’t let that happen.”

New TNJ alert: Ford labor deal to construct plant worries lawmakers, election changes proposed

The Blue Oval City plans superimposed on a map of the West Tenenssee Megasite.

— GOP lawmakers fret over Ford’s national labor agreement to build West Tennessee site.

— Proposal to require residency requirements for congressional candidates could have big effect on 5th District race – if it’s legal.

— Numbering disparity in new Senate maps could serve as basis for redistricting lawsuit.

— From the campaign trail: Kelsey dodges primary challenge from prominent House chairman, candidates line up to run for seats being vacated by Byrd and Halford, Stewart joins the ranks of retiring lawmakers.

Also:

The Tennessee Performing Arts Center says its in “ongoing discussion” with the state about its future home, Andy Ogles is “offended” by Morgan Ortagus, Lee Beaman is back at Belmont, and the former senator who made it legal to have up to a gallon of booze on you in every Tennessee county has died.

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