Robby Starbuck, Morgan Ortagus, Baxter Lee, and Stewart Parks were all removed from the August 4th GOP primary ballot in Tennessee’s 5th Congressional District this past Saturday by the Tennessee Republican Party State Executive Committee (SEC).
Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Scott Golden briefed the Tennessee GOP (TNGOP) State Executive Committee (SEC) Saturday on the challenge process, explaining that the challenges would be adjudicated before noon on April 21.
All four, however will have the opportunity to request that the SEC restore their names to the GOP primary ballot before the SEC sends the final list of candidates qualified to appear on the GOP primary ballot to the Tennessee Secretary of State on April 21.
During the meeting, the Tennessee GOP stated that they could not take action on the challenges at the current meeting, because the deadline for challenge filings was noon and would occur during the meeting.
The meeting took place at the Courtyard Marriott in Goodlettsville, started at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday and ended around 1 p.m.
The party needs more time to validate challenges in races all over the state that may have come in after the noon deadline. “If we vote today, it would deny due process,” Golden added.
Golden told The Tennessee Star that the TNGOP has received and verified challenges to Morgan Ortagus, Robby Starbuck, Baxter Lee, and Stewart Parks. The party had previously received and verified a challenge to David Vitalli, but he has dropped out of the race.
The following is from The Tennessee Star:
It was explained to those in the room, that the TNGOP bylaws allow for candidates’ Republican bona fide status to be challenged if they were not considered active members in the TNGOP, local party, or recognized affiliate, did not vote in three of the last four statewide Republican primaries, or in races where there is a Republican incumbent, did not submit a filing fee.
Golden explained to the TNGOP SEC members that Thursday, the party would send letters to the Tennessee Secretary of State’s office telling them that candidates with verified challenges are off the ballot and those campaigns would be suspended.
In the race for the 5th Congressional District, that means Thursday Ortagus, Starbuck, Lee, and Parks will be off the ballot, at least temporarily.
The TNGOP would then have until 12 p.m. on April 21 to adjudicate the challenges. They have two options, to restore the candidates to the ballot or to allow the deadline to pass without restoration. For the TN-5 challenge votes, the 15 person committee has not decided how it will meet to adjudicate the challenges. According to Golden, the adjudication process will begin and end sometime after April 14 and prior to the April 21 deadline.
During his overview of the process, Golden did say he would begin getting feedback from members of the SEC committee on how they plan to vote on “Easter Monday”. There is no process outlined on how the committee must meet, so it could be possible for Golden to poll the members of the meeting to be conducted via a conference call.
Barring court intervention, April 21 is the date that the Secretary of State’s office will finalize the ballots. Chairman Golden mentioned during his remarks that the three-year residency requirement legislation passed by the General Assembly is expected to become law Wednesday. There is already a pending federal lawsuit filed by Ortagus supporters challenging the legislation. That legislation has nothing to do with the TNGOP challenge process and was mentioned for informational purposes.
Golden said that the TNGOP will send out packets on Monday, April 11 via FedEx to the candidates whose Republican bona fide status was challenged as a courtesy so they could be afforded due process to prepare for a SEC committee vote on ballot restoration.
If a candidate was not considered active in the TNGOP, local party, or recognized affiliate, they would be given the opportunity to remedy that. Something as simple as a $5 check to the county GOP committee would suffice.
If a candidate fails to meet the three out of four voting requirements, then they must be vouched for in writing by a bona fide Republican in compliance with the TNGOP bylaws to satisfy that requirement.
You can read more from our friends at The Tennessee Star.