Tennessee GOP Removes Candidates from Ballot
A view of the Tennessee State Capitol Building.

Tennessee GOP Removes Candidates from Ballot

Tennessee’s new Fifth Congressional District is located south of Nashville. This area was formerly represented by Jim Cooper, a Democrat but he chose to retire and leave his seat open. The new district boundaries have made the Fifth district more conservative and a dozen candidates are attempting to win the election for the vacant seat. But several of these candidates have been removed from the ballot by the Tennessee Republican Party. Here, Election Central takes a closer look at the story. 

A Powerful Party 

The Tennessee Republican Party can remove candidates from the ballot if they don’t follow the party’s bylaws. The bylaws state that the candidate must have voted in three of the last four Republican primaries, and that he or she has actively participated in state or local party activities. If the candidate doesn’t meet these bylaws, party leaders in the district can vouch for that candidate to keep that person from being disqualified.  

The Tennessee GOP has removed several Republican candidates from the ballot in recent years. Party leaders say that they are ensuring that any candidate who receives the party’s nomination is an active and invested member of the party.  

Questioning Allegiances 

Megan Ortagus, a candidate for Tennessee’s Fifth Congressional District, was a State Department spokesperson under the Trump administration. Former president Trump has endorsed her in this race. But the Tennessee Republican Party removed her from the ballot. Two other Republican candidates, Robby Starbuck and Baxter Lee, were also removed.  

Candidates Strike Back 

Each of these Republican candidates and their campaigns are fighting their removal from the ballot. 

Ortagus argues that she voted in the correct number of primaries, participated in Republican women’s groups, and donated to the party. The Tennessee GOP counters that Ortagus only moved to the state in 2021, and only moved into the new Fifth district in mid-March of 2022.  

Robby Starbuck insists that he has always been a registered Republican and has only ever supported the Republican Party. He says that removing him from the ballot disenfranchises voters and gives the party too much power. He thinks that Tennessee party leaders are trying to hand-pick the Fifth District’s representative. His campaign plans to fight the GOP’s decision.  

Baxter Lee was removed from the ballot because he didn’t vote in three out of the past four Republican primaries, although he has voted in ten out of the last twelve. His campaign insists that Lee has been an active member of the Tennessee Republican Party for the past two decades and has donated tens of thousands of dollars to the GOP. 

What Do You Think? Do you think a state’s major political parties should have control over whose names appear (and don’t appear) on the ballot? Why or why not? 
Valerie Cumming

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