Maury County, Tenn., Mayor Andy Ogles on Thursday secured the Republican nomination for Tennessee’s 5th congressional district despite a barrage of attack ads and federal campaign finance missteps.
Ogles is now on the verge of converting the fifth, a longtime Democratic stronghold, after Tennessee’s large Republican General Assembly majority this year reduced the district to pro-GOP territory.
“This was the establishment against the conservative wing of the party,” Ogles told supporters Thursday night. “Hell, the Conservatives won.”
On the Democratic side, state Sen. Heidi Campbell of Nashville faced no primary opposition and will face the Republican nominee in the November general election.
Campbell has posted strong fundraising numbers, but faces an uphill battle in the redesigned district.
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Ogles handily won five of the district’s six counties, earning nearly 37% of the district vote with 95% of the vote counted. Former state House Speaker Beth Harwell carried Davidson County by a decisive margin but fell short of the vote elsewhere, trailing Ogles by 10 points.
“I want to thank all of the volunteers and supporters who supported me in my campaign for Congress,” Harwell said in a statement upon awarding the race. “We fought hard, but we fell short.”
Legislative Republicans snatched the 5th from a comfortable Democratic stronghold and pushed the southwestern district into Republican territory. The new map favors Republicans for eight of the nine congressional seats in Tennessee.
The redistricting effort sparked a Republican frenzy for the seat when incumbent US Rep. Jim Cooper, a Nashville Democrat, announced he would not seek re-election.
Good faith challenges
Bitter infighting over Republican good faith erupted this spring when two newcomers from Tennessee made high-profile bids for the seat.
In February, former President Donald Trump surprised many by endorsing Morgan Ortagus, a political newcomer who had yet to announce her own candidacy. Ortagus, who worked at the State Department during the Trump administration, had moved to Tennessee just a year earlier.
Trump’s endorsement angered another Tennessee transplant, Robby Starbuck, who started a campaign against Cooper before the redistricting effort. Starbuck had amassed a series of early endorsements among media personalities and right-wing lawmakers.
Dismay over the candidates worked its way through the General Assembly, Harwell’s former grounds, leading to legislation to enact residency requirements in congressional primaries.
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The legislation implicitly targeted Ortagus, though Governor Bill Lee effectively neutralized the law for the current election cycle, allowing the legislation to remain unsigned on his desk beyond the April candidate filing deadline.
But within days, the Tennessee Republican Party took matters into its own hands.
The party expelled Ortagus, Starbuck, and Nashville businessman Baxter Lee off the ballot for bona fide concerns.
Ortagus chose to drop the issue and later supported Winstead, while Starbuck attempted an unsuccessful legal challenge for his removal. He continues to campaign as a write-in candidate for the seat.
The Republican will face State Sen. Heidi Campbell in November.
Tennessee’s reconfigured 5th district will give the Republican Party a comfortable shot at a House seat in November, further cementing the state’s Republican majority in Congress.
Democratic candidate Campbell will enter the general election with more than $400,000 in her campaign coffers and said Thursday that the campaign was ready for whichever candidate emerges victorious in the Republican primary.
“No matter who gets this nomination, the contrast will be stark between our ‘Freedom for Families First’ agenda and a Republican who is beholden to Trump’s extreme MAGA agenda,” Campbell said before polls closed.
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In a speech to supporters Thursday night, Ogles struck an aggressive tone, drawing cheers from the crowd when he said, “Liberals, we’re coming for you.”
“We are in war. This is a political war, this is a culture war, and this is a spiritual war,” Ogles said. “We have to go back to honoring God and honoring the country.”
This article originally appeared in Nashville Tennessee: Tennessee Election Results: District 5 Congressional Republican Primary