14 in GOP file for open US House seat in Nashville split

April 8, 2022 GMT
FILE - State Department Spokesperson Morgan Ortagus attends a news conference at the State Department, Wednesday, June 24, 2020, in Washington. Tennessee lawmakers have passed a residency requirement for Republican and Democratic U.S. House and Senate hopefuls that would kick in right away. The law could affect the candidacies of President Donald Trump's endorsed candidate, Ortagus. (Mandel Ngan/Pool Photo via AP, File)
FILE - State Department Spokesperson Morgan Ortagus attends a news conference at the State Department, Wednesday, June 24, 2020, in Washington. Tennessee lawmakers have passed a residency requirement for Republican and Democratic U.S. House and Senate hopefuls that would kick in right away. The law could affect the candidacies of President Donald Trump's endorsed candidate, Ortagus. (Mandel Ngan/Pool Photo via AP, File)
FILE - State Department Spokesperson Morgan Ortagus attends a news conference at the State Department, Wednesday, June 24, 2020, in Washington. Tennessee lawmakers have passed a residency requirement for Republican and Democratic U.S. House and Senate hopefuls that would kick in right away. The law could affect the candidacies of President Donald Trump's endorsed candidate, Ortagus. (Mandel Ngan/Pool Photo via AP, File)
FILE - State Department Spokesperson Morgan Ortagus attends a news conference at the State Department, Wednesday, June 24, 2020, in Washington. Tennessee lawmakers have passed a residency requirement for Republican and Democratic U.S. House and Senate hopefuls that would kick in right away. The law could affect the candidacies of President Donald Trump's endorsed candidate, Ortagus. (Mandel Ngan/Pool Photo via AP, File)
FILE - State Department Spokesperson Morgan Ortagus attends a news conference at the State Department, Wednesday, June 24, 2020, in Washington. Tennessee lawmakers have passed a residency requirement for Republican and Democratic U.S. House and Senate hopefuls that would kick in right away. The law could affect the candidacies of President Donald Trump's endorsed candidate, Ortagus. (Mandel Ngan/Pool Photo via AP, File)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Fourteen Republicans and two Democrats have met the filing deadline to run for a U.S. House seat in GOP-led Tennessee that opened after state lawmakers carved Democratic-tilted Nashville into three districts.

Thursday afternoon marked the deadline for candidates to file nominating petitions for races that include U.S. House, governor and state House. The state Senate deadline was delayed to May 5 after a court blocked the new redistricting map for that chamber — though the state is challenging that decision. For the U.S. House, candidates had to collect 25 signatures of other registered voters in the district.

The flurry of candidates have set their sights on Tennessee’s freshly drawn 5th Congressional District. The seat became open after Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper announced he would not seek reelection rather than run in a district that carved up Nashville, favoring Republicans in each of the three seats and making it impossible for him to win any of them, in his view.

ADVERTISEMENT

All three of the new Nashville seats meander through parts of the Democratic city and suburbs and rural counties that have voted Republican.

The Republicans who filed for the 5th District include former Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell, small businessman Baxter Lee, Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles, former U.S. State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus, video producer Robby Starbuck and retired National Guard Brig. Gen. Kurt Winstead.

Other Republicans who filed include Geni Batchelor, Jeff Beierlein, Natisha Brooks, Sarah A. Grams, Richie Lee, Timothy Bruce Lee, Stewart T. Parks and Tres Wittum.

Democratic filers include state Sen. Heidi Campbell, who recently announced her campaign, and Justicia Rizzo. Campbell’s Senate seat is not on the ballot this year so she does not risk losing it by running for Congress.

With redistricting, the 5th District went from reliably Democratic to a seat former President Donald Trump won by 12 percentage points over President Joe Biden in 2020.

Some hope the field isn’t final.

The contest has featured scrutiny about newer residents running, spurring state lawmakers to pass a new residency requirement for Congress. Namely, candidates would need to be Tennessee residents for at least three years and residents of the county they will represent for at least one year “immediately preceding the election.”

ADVERTISEMENT

The main target of the bill, which awaits Republican Gov. Bill Lee’s action, is Ortagus, who has Trump’s endorsement. The requirement is already facing a federal lawsuit by Ortagus supporters.

Questions have swirled over whether the proposal violates 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.

Even without the bill, there are mechanisms within the state GOP to try to remove someone from the ballot.

State GOP rules say candidates need to have voted in three of the last four statewide primaries to be deemed “bona fide” Republicans, determined after someone files a challenge. But there also is a party process that lets others vouch for someone to be considered “bona fide” and remain on the ballot, which is determined in a vote by party officials.

In District 6, another seat that includes part of Nashville, Republican U.S. Rep. John Rose is seeking reelection without a primary opponent. Three Democrats filed as well: Randal Cooper, Lloyd Dunn and Clay Faircloth.

In the final Nashville seat, District 7, Republican U.S. Rep. Mark Green and Democrat Odessa Kelly, a Nashville community organizer, could be poised for a November general election matchup. Neither drew a primary opponent.

Republican Gov. Bill Lee’s race for reelection has drawn three primary challengers: Curtis Carney, the Cottontown owner of a Nashville party wagon company; Tyler Hagerman of Knoxville; and Patricia Anne Morrison of Culleoka. Three Democrats have filed: Nashville ICU physician Jason Martin, Memphis City Councilman JB Smiley Jr. and Carnita Faye Atwater of Memphis.

A Democrat has filed a intra-party challenge to try to remove Martin from the primary ballot partly because he voted in the 2016 Republican presidential primary for John Kasich, according to The Commercial Appeal. Martin’s campaign referred the newspaper to an Aug. 2021 statement in which Martin said it was clear Hillary Clinton, whom he supported, would win her primary, so he cast a ballot for Kasich as a vote against Trump.

Some candidates in the various races are still awaiting state approval of submitted signatures. Candidates outside of the two major parties filed for the contests, as well.

The primary election is on Aug. 4.