(Photo: John Partipilo)
The Tennessee Supreme Court overturned a June 3 ruling by Davidson County Chancellor Russell Perkins, ending a bid by video producer Robby Starbuck to run for the Republican nomination to Congress in the state’s 5th District.
On April 19, the Tennessee Republican Party Executive Committee voted to remove Starbuck, Donald Trump-backed Morgan Ortagus and businessman Baxter Lee from the GOP ballot, after all three had their partisan credentials challenged.
“The state party is trying to go beyond the scope of what they’re allowed to do by kicking a bonafide Republican like me off the ballot,” Starbuck said in a press release at the time.starbuck
Ortagus and Lee went quietly but Starbuck challenged the ruling, basing his claim on Tennessee’s Open Meeting Act, which grants the public the right to attend public meetings. Starbuck alleged the TNGOP violated the act by holding private meetings.
Federal Judge Waverly Crenshaw ruled May 12 the state Republican Party might have violated their own bylaws, but nothing more serious, and declined to restore Starbuck to the ballot. On June 3, Perkins found otherwise and shortly thereafter, state GOP leaders appealed to Tennessee’s highest court.
After the state Supreme Court ruling on Friday, Starbuck posted a lengthy statement on Twitter, saying in part, “No one from the national party has said a word about what @TNGOP did and I think it’s time they say something. Either @GOP @GOPChairwoman agree with TNGOP disenfranchising thousands of our voters by kicking me off the ballot or they don’t. Voters deserve to know which it is.”
Starbuck, whose legal name is Robert Starbuck Newsome, declared his candidacy for the 5th District in 2021. At the time, the district was largely Davidson County and Newsome would be opposing incumbent U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper.
The Tennessee General Assembly redrew the district in January, splitting Davidson County into three districts and adding Maury, Marshall and Lewis counties as well as portions of Williamson and Wilson into the new 5th.
The primary is set for Aug. 4. Republican candidates on the ballot include Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles, former Speaker of the Tennessee House Beth Harwell and retired Tennessee Army National Guard Gen. Kurt Winstead.
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