Analysis: Tennessee’s Fifth District race likely coming down to Harwell and Ogles

By: - August 4, 2022 6:00 am
Former 5th District congressional candidate Beth Harwell, photographed at the U.S.-Mexico border wall built under former President Donald Trump. (Photo: Beth Harwell for U.S. Congress)

Former 5th District congressional candidate Beth Harwell, photographed at the U.S.-Mexico border wall built under former President Donald Trump. (Photo: Beth Harwell for U.S. Congress)

With negative ads flooding voters in the waning days of the 5th Congressional District Republican primary, it appears former House Speaker Beth Harwell and Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles are battling for the nomination, leaving retired Brig. Gen. Kurt Winstead in the rear.

Never mind the fact that news reports showed Ogles failed to pay property taxes in Williamson County before the deadline nine times or that he couldn’t file his Federal Election Commission report on time.

A large segment of far-right voters doesn’t care about that stuff. They don’t want to pay taxes or file government reports, so why would they care if Ogles does?

According to an analysis by a mid-state political operative, attack ads against Harwell and Winstead hit their target, one for a 2001 vote by Harwell to give driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants and a second ad slamming Harwell and Winstead for being too “liberal.”

As a result, Harwell went from a decisive lead to a statistical tie with Ogles while the attacks on Winstead kept his percentage of support in the low to mid-teens. Harwell has spent most of her campaign remaking herself as a Trump candidate, saying she will finish building a wall at the Mexican border. The question is whether people are buying it.

Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles (Photo:
Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles (Photo:

And despite leading the campaign in spending at $811,000, Winstead’s “ole general” ads aren’t getting much traction and could be coming across as a bit hokey. 

His newest ad doesn’t resonate, either, one in which retired Master Sgt. Mark Harris, who served under Winstead in the Tennessee National Guard, calling himself a “Davy Crockett conservative” says he called Winstead in a fit of anger to ask him about claims that he supported a Democrat.

Unfortunately for the “ole general,” Harris admits that Winstead cast a “dumb vote” for a Democrat 10 years ago and made a donation to the candidate. 

Harris says, “Never question General Winstead’s integrity or conservative values. I guarantee those with my life.”

Maybe he shouldn’t have admitted Winstead made that vote, because Republicans have a memory like an elephant.

Meanwhile, Harwell went after Ogles in the closing days of the campaign, continually labeling him as a lobbyist and associating him with a D.C. special interest group that “smeared” former President Donald Trump and another group that “supports amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants.” 

Take note that Harwell didn’t have Winstead in her sights during the last week, instead pointing out the special interest groups are spending heavily on Ogles because he will back their “pro-amnesty agenda.”

“Bought and paid for by never Trumpers and amnesty-loving RINOS who sell out America. Lobbyist Andy Ogles would make the D.C. swamp even worse,” the Harwell ad says. 

It also pictures a smiling Ogles with Republican Sens. Mitt Romney and Liz Cheney, who are considered foes of Trump.

But while the barrage of attack ads points toward a showdown between Harwell and Ogles on the final day of voting, Winstead sent out a release Tuesday showing him in a tie with Harwell and Ogles coming in third.

Retired Gen. Kurt Winstead. (Kurt Winstead for Congress Facebook)
Retired Gen. Kurt Winstead. (Kurt Winstead for Congress Facebook)

The Spry Strategies poll of 300 voters done for Winstead shows Harwell with 22%, Winstead with 20% and Ogles with 15%. Other candidates, Timothy Lee, and Jeff Beierlein received 10% and 9% respectively.

The Tennessee Journal points out Spry Strategies was used by House Republicans in 2020 and the Tennessee Education Association this year.

Meanwhile, an 1892 poll of 400 likely voters – reported by Trump Nation News – put Ogles at 30%, Harwell at 24% and Winstead at 13%, according to the Tennessee Journal.

More than likely, Ogles and Harwell are closer to a tie and Winstead is stuck in the mid-teens. Ogles always had the ultra-conservative vote, and Harwell and Winstead were left to scrap for the country club GOP ballot in this 5th Congressional District, drawn by Republicans to split Metro Nashville and kill its hopes of having a Democrat in Congress but one that has turned Republicans against each other like wolves.

It likely depends on who can deliver the hardest bite Thursday, Election Day.

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Sam Stockard
Sam Stockard

Sam Stockard is a veteran Tennessee reporter and editor, having written for the Daily News Journal in Murfreesboro, where he served as lead editor when the paper won an award for being the state's best Sunday newspaper two years in a row. He has led the Capitol Hill bureau for The Daily Memphian. His awards include Best Single Editorial from the Tennessee Press Association.