Friday, April 1, 2022

Tennessee sued over residency bill that would disqualify Trump-backed candidate

Morgan Ortagus
by Rod Williams, April 1, 2022- Yesterday, March 31st, three Tennesseans filed a lawsuit in federal court in Nashville naming Tennessee and Secretary of State Trey Hargett as defendants. The lawsuit was filed just hours after the State legislature passed a bill that would impose a three-year residency requirement for candidates running in a party primary for the US House of Representatives in Tennesee.  The lawsuit aims to ban that law from taking effect. The Plaintiffs allege the bill would violate the Constitution, which outlines less stringent qualifications to qualify for the U.S. House of Representatives. They say this bill would prohibit them from voting for their preferred candidate, Morgan Ortagus. Governor Lee has not yet signed the bill. He has ten days to either sign it, veto it, or let it become law without his signature. 

The qualifying deadline to run in the primary is April 7. If Governor Lee waits until after the seventh to sign the bill or just allows it to become law without his signature, then the bill will not be law on the seventh and Ortagus could run.

When the bill was being discussed in the legislature several lawmakers questioned the constitutionality of the bill but proponents argued that the bill establishes who could run in a primary, not who could run for the seat in the general election.  A candidate ineligible to run in a primary could still run as an independent in the general election. A lawsuit to overturn the bill, which is not yet law, was expected. A Washington D.C news outlet reported that a well-funded super PAC called The Tennessee Conservatives PAC was expected to support a lawsuit over the bill once it was passed. 

I do not know if Morgan Ortagus, the Trump-backed candidate who is the target of this bill, is considering a run as an independent candidate or not should the bill become law, but she could do so.  I have heard no such chatter on social media and have been out of circulation recently so have not had my ear to the ground, but one news outlet raised that as a possibility.  I hope that does not happen.  Should Ortagus run as an independent, the likely outcome is that the conservative vote would be split with enough Trumpinistas voting for Ortagus to deny the Republican nominee a victory and the 5th Congressional District would remain in Democrat's hands. 

While I share the resentment of many Republicans who see Ms Ortagus as a "carpetbagger" with no roots in Tennessee and little knowledge of the district, I think it was a mistake to pass this bill and try to deny her a chance to run. Republican voters can evaluate the importance of those issues themselves.  I think the wisest course of action at this point is for Governor Lee to veto the bill, or simply allow it to become law without his signature thus making it not applicable to this upcoming election. 

For source material for this article and more information see link, link, and link


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