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House OKs new version of congressional residency requirement

March 15, 2022 GMT

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee House lawmakers on Monday approved implementing residency requirement for Republican and Democratic U.S. House hopefuls, but the legislation would only take effect after the 2022 midterm November general election and not apply to incumbents.

The move comes as the GOP-dominant Legislature has grappled with a flurry of candidates seeking to win Tennessee’s newly drawn 5th Congressional District, which became open after Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper announced he would retire rather than run in a district that carved up Nashville.

Republicans hope doing so will give them a greater opportunity to flip a previously held Democratic seat.

Former President Donald Trump has announced his endorsement of Morgan Ortagus, which has ruffled from Republicans who say Ortagus is a recent transplant to not only the district but also Tennessee.

Separately, video producer Robby Starbuck has alleged that lawmakers are trying to keep him out of the race. Starbuck announced plans to run for Congress before Nashville was carved into three districts, and has received U.S. Sen. Rand Paul’s support.

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Under the legislation advanced in the House, U.S. House and Senate candidates would be required to meet the same criteria imposed on state legislative candidates, who must be Tennessee residents for at least three years and residents of the county they’ll represent for at least one year “immediately preceding the election.”

Last month, Senate members passed a slightly different version of the measure which would have taken effect immediately upon receiving the governor’s signature. That means the chambers will have to negotiate which version to adopt if it is to get to Gov. Bill Lee’s desk.

It is unclear if either proposal is legal under the U.S. Constitution, which only dictates that a congressional candidate be a citizen for at least seven years, at least 25 years old and an “inhabitant” of the state in which they want to be elected. The U.S. Supreme Court has previously determined that any requirement not explicitly outlined in the Constitution is out of bounds.