Tennessee GOP kicks Trump-backed candidates out of primary election

Tennessee GOP kicks Trump-backed candidates out of primary election
Make America Great Again hat in support of Donald Trump at a rally at Veterans Memorial Coliseum at the Arizona State Fairgrounds in Phoenix, Arizona. // Gage Skidmore

Three Tennessee Republican candidates, all endorsed by former President Donald Trump, have been removed from the state's ballot for its upcoming primary election.

According to The Tennessean, Morgan Ortagus, Baxter Lee, and Robby Starbuck were supposed to be listed on the ballot as part of the newly-drawn congressional map for the state's 5th District. However, on Tuesday, April 19, Tennessee Republican Chairman Scott Golden released a statement confirming the Republican executive committee's decision to boot the three candidates from the ballot.

Per the news outlet, the announcement comes one week after Republican officials filed paperwork detailing challenges against the candidates "which triggered a technical removal from the ballot per party bylaws."

Ortagus, a former representative for the U.S. Department of State, released a statement reacting to the removal which she describes as "deeply disappointing."

"I'm a bonafide Republican by their standards, and frankly, by any metric," Ortagus said in her statement. "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. Our team is evaluating the options before us."

While the executive committee largely voted in favor of the candidates' removal, there are some Republicans who are not happy about it. Chip Saltsman, Lee's campaign manager, has also fired back with his take on the removal calling it "ridiculous."

"There was no good reason to kick off some someone who's been a good Republican for 20 plus years," Saltsman said.

Following the vote, Starbuck took to social media to express his disdain. "The corruption will be exposed," Starbuck posted online. "The fight has only just begun. We can’t let RINO’s destroy our party."

Although Ortagus, Lee, and Starbuck have been removed, there are still a number of candidates fighting to gain control of Tennessee's 5th District. Per the outlet, "Nashville lawyer and retired National Guard Brig. Gen. Kurt Winstead, former House Speaker Beth Harwell and Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles are among the most prominent candidates."

The Tennessee primary elections are scheduled to take place on August 4.

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