Republican Congressional Primary from District 5

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  • The newly drawn 5th congressional district leans Republican.
  • The district includes parts of Davidson, Williamson and Wilson counties and all of Lewis Marshall and Maury counties.

Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles secured the Republican nomination for the 5th congressional district on Thursday, according to unofficial election results, despite a deluge of attack announcements and federal campaign finance failures.

Ogles comfortably carried five of the district’s six counties. Former State House Speaker Beth Harwell won Davidson County by a decisive margin, but did not get the votes elsewhere.

“I want to thank all of the volunteers and supporters who supported me in my campaign for Congress,” Harwell said in a statement conceding the race. “We fought hard, but we didn’t succeed.”

Ogles fired out of the gate with an initial lead due to Maury County’s early vote count, before Davidson County began reporting after 8:30 p.m.

Early results from Williamson County also strengthened Ogles’ lead.

“I’m cautiously optimistic,” Ogles said at the time.

About 75 volunteers, donors and other Ogles supporters gathered Thursday night for an energetic Franklin watch party, occasionally cheering when a new batch of results appeared on television.

Harwell’s campaign declined to open its watch party to the media.

Kurt Winstead, third, conceded shortly before 10 p.m. Winstead told supporters gathered at his Green Hills campaign watch party that “that was not the speech I wanted to give.”

“We left it all on the field,” Winstead said in good spirits. “It’s been an incredible journey, and I’m very proud of what we’ve done.”

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.

Beth Harwell, Andy Ogles and Kurt Winstead, Republican candidates for Tennessee US House District 5 (2022)

Campbell has posted strong fundraising numbers but faces an uphill battle against the realities of the now Republican-leaning district.

Earlier this year, the Republican supermajority in the Tennessee General Assembly wrested the 5th from a comfortably Democratic stronghold and pushed the district southwest into Republican territory.

The move split Nashville and Davidson County, dividing the longtime Democratic stronghold into three right-wing districts, including the new 5th. The new map favors Republicans for eight of the nine congressional seats.

Parts of Davidson, Williamson, and Wilson counties, as well as rural Lewis, Maury, and Marshall counties, are included in the new 5th.

The redistricting effort sparked a Republican feeding frenzy for the seat as incumbent U.S. Representative Jim Cooper, D-Nashville, announced he would not seek re-election.

Good faith challenges

Bitter fights erupted this spring over Republican good faith as two newcomers from Tennessee mounted 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 his own candidacy. Ortagus, who worked at the State Department during the Trump administration, had moved to Tennessee a year prior.

Trump’s endorsement angered another Tennessee transplant, Robby Starbuck, who began a campaign against Cooper before the redistricting effort. Starbuck had amassed a number of early endorsements among right-wing media figures and lawmakers.

Dismay over the candidates made its way through the General Assembly, Harwell’s former stomping ground, leading to legislation to enact residency requirements in congressional primaries.

The legislation implicitly targeted Ortagus, though Governor Bill Lee effectively overruled the law for the current election cycle, allowing the legislation to linger unsigned on his desk past the April candidate filing deadline.

After:5th Republican Congressional Primary heats up as state party considers challenges in good faith

But within days, the Republican Party of Tennessee took matters into its own hands.

The party kicked Ortagus, Starbuck and Nashville businessman Baxter Lee from the ballot on good faith grounds.

After:Tennessee GOP kicks Trump-backed Morgan Ortagus, Baxter Lee and Robby Starbuck out of primary

Ortagus chose to drop the issue, later giving his support to Winstead, while Starbuck attempted an unsuccessful legal challenge over his removal. He continues to campaign as a write-in candidate for the seat.

Harwell and Ogles turn negative in wave of ads

After the party vote, Harwell, Winstead and Ogles began to get ahead of the pack to stage the most competitive U.S. House Republican primary in the state in years.

Outside groups poured more than $2 million into the race, according to federal election documents, as candidates rushed to the right to prove their conservative credentials.

Winstead invested $1.14 million in his campaign, although he paid himself nearly half of that sum. Harwell loaned his campaign $150,000. Ogles loaned his campaign more than $300,000.

Republican candidate for the 5th congressional district, Kurt Winstead, delivers his concession speech, with his wife Beth Winstead at his side, in front of his supporters during his election night at the Crows Nest on Thursday, August 4, 2022 in Nashville, Tennessee.

Ogles filed his federal financial disclosure nearly eight days after the reporting deadline, which showed he had raised about $264,000, half the amount he claimed to have raised previously.

His campaign has benefited from major ad buys from conservative groups like Americans for Prosperity, an advocacy group where Ogles worked as executive director of the Tennessee chapter for several years, as well as the USA Freedom Fund, House Freedom Fund and Volunteers for Freedom PAC.

Harwell criticized Ogles for the ad buys, saying outsiders were trying to “choose” a representative from Tennessee by “misleading voters and supporting Andy Ogles.” Harwell was hit by negative ads for a State House vote to allow immigrants to get driver’s licenses in 2001 and to raise the state gas tax

Ogles sued the Tennessee Conservatives’ PAC late last month, alleging the PAC funded “intentionally false” advertisements claiming he repeatedly failed to pay property taxes.

After:Andy Ogles Files Lawsuit Against PAC Over Property Tax Claims

The Republican will face State Senator Heidi Campbell in November

Tennessee’s reshaped 5th will give the GOP a comfortable chance to flip a House seat in November, further bolstering the state’s Republican majority in Congress.

Senator Heidi Campbell, Democratic candidate for Congressional District 5, kisses her friend Cal Cobb on election night at her home in Nashville, Tennessee, Thursday, August 4, 2022.

Democratic nominee Campbell will enter the general with more than $400,000 in her campaign coffers and said Thursday the campaign is ready for the candidate who emerges victorious in the GOP primary.

“No matter who gets this nomination, the contrast will be clear between our ‘Freedom for Families First’ agenda and a Republican who is beholden to Trump’s extreme MAGA agenda,” Campbell said before the polls closed.

In 2020, Campbell ousted Republican incumbent Senator Steve Dickerson for two terms for the District 20 seat. Campbell was previously Oak Hill’s first female mayor.

Campbell is not eligible for re-election to the Senate until 2024 and can remain in his seat while running for Congress.

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