Maury County, Tenn., Mayor Andy Ogles clinched the Republican nomination for Tennessee’s 5th Congressional District on Thursday, despite attack ads and federal campaign finance fumbles.
After remaking the Tennessee General Assembly’s Republican-majority district into GOP-friendly territory this year, the Ogles are now poised to flip the 5th, a longtime Democratic stronghold.
“This was the conservative wing of the party against the establishment,” Ogles told supporters Thursday night. “Roughly, conservatives won.”
On the Democratic side, state Sen. of Nashville. Heidi Campbell faces no primary opposition and will face the Republican nominee in the November general election.
Campbell has posted solid fundraising numbers but faces an uphill battle in a redrawn district.
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The Ogles comfortably carried five of the district’s six counties, capturing about 37% of the district’s votes with 95% of the vote counted. Former state House Speaker Beth Harwell won by a decisive margin in Davidson County but has no votes elsewhere, trailing Ogles by 10 points.
“I want to thank all the volunteers and supporters who supported me in my campaign for Congress,” Harwell said in a statement accepting the race.
Legislative Republicans swept the 5th from a comfortably Democratic stronghold and pushed the district southwest into Republican territory. The new map favors Republicans for eight of nine congressional seats in Tennessee.
The redistricting effort sparked a Republican feeding frenzy for the seat as incumbent U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Nashville, announced he will not seek re-election.
Bona feeds challenges
A bitter battle over Republican primacy erupted this spring as two Tennessee newcomers mounted high-profile bids for the seat.
In February, former President Donald Trump surprised many by endorsing Morgan Ortagus, a political newcomer who had not yet announced his candidacy. Ortagus, who worked at the State Department during the Trump administration, moved to Tennessee just over a year ago.
Trump’s endorsement angered another Tennessee transplant, Robbie Starbuck, who launched a campaign against Cooper before the redistricting effort. Starbuck won a number of early endorsements among right-wing media personalities and lawmakers.
Panic spread over candidates from Harwell’s former stomping grounds in the General Assembly, leading to legislation to enforce residency requirements in congressional primaries.
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The law clearly targeted Ortagus, although Gov. Bill Lee effectively neutralized the law for the current election cycle, allowing the law to linger on his desk without a signature after the April candidate filing deadline.
But within days, the Tennessee Republican Party took matters into its own hands.
The party booted Ortagus, Starbuck and Nashville businessman Baxter Lee from the ballot over genuine concerns.
Ortagus chose to drop the issue, later throwing his support behind Winstead, while Starbuck attempted an unsuccessful legal challenge to remove him. He continues to campaign as a candidate for the seat.
The Republican will face state Sen. Heidi Campbell in November
Tennessee’s 5th would give the GOP a comfortable chance to flip the House seat in November, increasing the state’s Republican congressional majority.
Campbell, the Democratic candidate, will enter the general election with more than $400,000 in his campaign coffers and said Thursday that the campaign is ready for whichever candidate emerges victorious in the GOP primary.
“No matter who wins the nomination, the difference between Republicans who see our ‘Freedom for Families First’ agenda and Trump’s extreme MAGA agenda will be clear,” Campbell said before the polls closed.
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In a speech to his supporters Thursday night, Ogles took an aggressive tone, when he said, “Liberals, we’re coming for you.”
“We are at war. This is a political war, this is a cultural war and this is a spiritual war,” Ogles said. “We have to come back to honoring God and honoring the country.”