In what some see as an effort to trim Trump endorsed candidates off the primary ballot, the Tennessee Republican Party voted on Tuesday to remove former State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus from the August 4 primary ballot.
Ortagus is the third candidate to be removed by the Tennessee State GOP. State party Chair Scott Golden said that they did not meet candidate eligibility requirements.
According to Tennessee candidate eligibility requirements, they must have voted in the last three out of four primaries as well as show active participation in state or local Republican parties. Then in March, the Tennessee Legislature passed a bill that made residency for at least three years in the district they want to represent prior to becoming a candidate mandatory.
Following her stint as a member of the Trump administration, Morgan Ortagus moved to Nashville in 2021 upon joining a healthcare investment firm. Ortagus did not announce her bid for Congress until February, but had already garnered an endorsement from former President Donald Trump.
Trump endorsed Ortagus in January saying she had his, “Complete and Total Endorsement.” Trump also lauded her as being, “an absolute warrior for America First and MAGA!”
The 39-year-old John Hopkins grad and US Navy Reserve Officer responded by saying that working for the #AmericaFirst agenda in his administration was an honor.
Although Ortagus does not meet current residency requirements, she said in a statement Tuesday:
“I’m a bonafide Republican by their standards, and frankly, by any metric. I’m further disappointed that the party insiders at the Tennessee Republican Party do not seem to share my commitment to President Trump’s America First policies. As I have said all along, I believe that voters in Middle Tennessee should pick their representative — not establishment party insiders.”
Twitter user expressed his own theories about Tennessee Republicans removing both Morgan Ortagus and Robby Starbuck from the ballot.
Morgan Ortagus’ candidacy was not the only one on the chopping block for the Tennessee GOP. Also removed from the primary ballot were Baxter Lee and Robby Starbuck.
According to a report from the Washington Post, Lee has given roughly $100,000 to Tennessee Republican candidates since the 1990’s, and had a long history of working with the state party. The Washington Post also reports that Lee was a 10 out of 12 primary voter, far exceeding the three out of four vote requirement.
Chip Saltsman, Baxter Lee’s campaign manager had this to say about Tuesday’s vote:
“They took a guy who’s been involved in the Tennessee Republican Party for 20 years … and they told him he wasn’t a real Republican. As you can imagine, that’s kind of a shock. This is going to be a decision that’s going to haunt these people for a very long time.”
Starbuck also released a statement in a tweet which read:
“Sadly in Tennessee candidates are NOT elected, they’re SELECTED by a tiny group of establishment RINO hacks. We’ll fight this with every ounce of fight we have. They declared war on TN voters yesterday. It’s not about me, it’s about YOU and I’ll fight for your right to vote.”
Starbuck added a little something extra to his statements on Twitter as well in the form of a familiar conservative face,
Donald Trump’s endorsement of Morgan Ortagus was a bit of an oddity for many of his staunchest supporters. Many believed that America First candidate Robby Starbuck had the coveted Trump endorsement in the bag.
Ortagus was not a Trump supporter despite working in his administration.
In 2016, she worked for a Jeb Bush super PAC, and criticized Trump’s foreign policy as, “an isolationist foreign policy approach.” In other instances, she described Trump as “disgusting,” and “not serious.”
While being interviewed on radio, she stated that, “Quite frankly, I don’t want someone with the temperament of a middle school pubescent boy in the president’s office.” According to the Washington Post, Ortagus said her team is evaluating its options.
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