The Tennessee Republican Party’s executive committee voted to kick House candidate and ex-Trump administration State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus off the primary ballot on Tuesday.
The vote was a result of a challenge that had been filed against Ortagus’ campaign from within the Tennessee GOP, which has been fighting tooth and nail to sink her bid in an unusual clash with former President Donald Trump, who had given Ortagus a full-throated endorsement.
Ortagus said in a statement after the vote on Tuesday that she was “disappointed that the party insiders at the Tennessee Republican Party do not seem to share” her “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,” she continued. “Our team is evaluating the options before us.”
The party’s vote came after the GOP-controlled state legislature passed a bill requiring primary candidates to have lived in Tennessee for at least three years in order to qualify.
The legislation was a direct salvo at Ortagus, a Florida native who didn’t start living in Tennessee until she moved to Nashville last year and whose address isn’t even in the district she’s running in (the 5th Congressional District). However, the Republicans lawmakers’ scheming was all for naught — the Tennessee Secretary of State said last week that the law wouldn’t apply to Ortagus because it became law after the April 7 filing deadline.
Trump endorsed Ortagus in January, before she even launched her campaign. However, the ex-president’s endorsement sparked rare backlash from his loyalists who complained that Ortagus wasn’t committed enough to the MAGA cause.
Tennessee Republicans were similarly upset, arguing that outsiders like Ortagus shouldn’t be allowed to plant their flags in the state and immediately run for office.
The former Trump official really didn’t help her case in an interview with the Tennessee Star Report in February, during which the candidate was unable to answer any questions about the district she was running in or even Tennessee itself.
“What three interstate highways are located in the 5th Congressional District?” the Tennessee Star Report asked.
“I’m a terrible driver. I don’t know that,” Ortagus replied. “I don’t drive anywhere that I go.”
The Tennessee GOP also voted on Tuesday to remove two other primary candidates running in the state’s 5th Congressional District: Baxter Lee and Robby Starbuck.
Starbuck responded with a declaration of war via this video:
(In case you were curious, it’s a pastiche of a popular Vine meme, specifically this one):