War Brewing After GOP Fired First Major Shot at Trump

A bill mandating that congressional candidates live in Tennessee for three years before they can run for office passed the GOP-controlled state legislature in a landslide.

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Republican Governor Bill Lee purposefully didn’t sign the measure within the 10-day period, thus allowing it to become law.

After the bill became law, Tennessee’s GOP party removed a Trump-backed congressional candidate from the primary ballot after she had recently moved to the state.

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Currently serving in the Navy Reserves, Morgan Ortagus was the State Department’s Spokesperson under former President Donald Trump. The candidate had hoped to run for the district that surrounds Nashville, but now seems unlikely to do so.

Ortagus was running for Tennessee’s 5th congressional district when Trump endorsed her.

‘President Donald Trump believes I’m the best person to fight for his America First agenda and Middle Tennessee in Congress, and I’m working hard to ensure that my fellow Tennesseans, including TNGOP SEC members, understand why,’ Ortagus said in a statement following the decision to remove her from the position.

‘As I have said all along, I believe that voters in Middle Tennessee should pick their representative — not establishment party insiders,’ she added. ‘Our team is evaluating the options before us.’

Ortagus would have been disqualified from even filing if the law had already been in effect before the April 7 filing deadline, but a Tennessee secretary of state’s spokesperson said it would not apply retroactively, according to the Associated Press.

Newsweek reported that Ortagus believes she was removed from the ballot because she is Jewish:

The law, which does not allow people to run in primary elections unless they have lived in Tennessee for at least three years, was championed by state Senator Frank Niceley. He made reference to the fact that Ortagus is Jewish during a previous interview about removing her from the ballot, according to NBC News.

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“I don’t think Trump cares one way or the other,” Niceley said. “I think Jared Kushner—he’s Jewish, she’s Jewish—I think Jared will be upset. Ivanka will be upset. I don’t think Trump cares.”

Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, former President Trump’s daughter and son-in-law, are Jewish.

When an NBC News report highlighted Niceley’s remarks on Tuesday, Ortagus shared the story and a screenshot of the quote on Twitter.

“Anti-Semitism is the oldest and one of the most vile forms of hatred on this earth, and Senator Niceley should be ashamed of his repeated anti-Semitic rhetoric. I am incredibly proud to call myself a part of the Jewish people,” Ortagus wrote.

Ortagus added in a later tweet: “I have always called out anti-Semitism when I see it in all of its forms. I will condemn anyone who traffics in this hate-mongering.”

“Senator Niceley’s repulsive words could not be more clear in disparaging the Jewish people. This racism cannot stand,” she said.

Newsweek continued:

In a statement to Newsweek on Wednesday, Niceley said: “In an extended interview with NBC News, a fake news reporter decided to take a small portion of my comments out of context in order to manufacture a controversy to distract people from the fact that Morgan Ortagus was declared ineligible for the ballot by both the Tennessee Republican Party and the General Assembly.”

“Let me be clear: I have nothing but respect for the Jewish people and the State of Israel. Attempting to construe my off-hand comments about the Trump family as antisemitism is unfair and inaccurate,” Niceley said.

Senator Niceley recently made headlines after he cited Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler as an example of someone who had been homeless but went on to have a productive life, though he also described the dictator’s life as “very unproductive.”

Currently, Tennessee’s Republican executive committee can disqualify candidates for not following party bylaws from the primary ballot. To be eligible here, a candidate must have voted in three of the last four GOP primaries and actively participate in state and local Republican parties.

According to Scott Golden, state GOP chairman, party leaders in specific districts could bypass voting record rules to prevent candidates from being disqualified by arguing on their behalf.

In her campaign, Ortagus argues that she has met all of the state party’s bylaws, including voting in sufficient GOP primaries and participating in Republican women’s groups.

Before the state executive committee voted to remove her, Ortagus said she spoke to members ‘about my core conservative beliefs, my background serving in the Trump Administration and the U.S. Navy Reserves, and my conservative vision for our state and our country.’

Another two candidates, Robby Starbuck and Baxter Lee, were removed from the ballot as well.

As a newcomer to the Volunteer State, Republicans have been campaigning to remove Ortagus’ name from the August primary ballot.

‘I am deeply disappointed in the SEC’s decision,’ Ortega said in a statement regarding the GOP’s State Executive Committee.

‘I’m a bonafide Republican by their standards, and frankly, by any metric,’ she said. ‘I’m further disappointed that the party insiders at the Tennessee Republican Party do not seem to share my commitment to President Trump’s America First policies.’

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In the GOP, the influence of Trump is being challenged as some members break from the former president, complaining about his talk of fraud during the 2020 election.

Further proof that the party is distancing itself from Trump comes with the removal of the former White House official.

From his Save America PAC account, the ex-president sent an endorsement email for Ortagus in late January 2022.

‘I am told the very strong and impressive Morgan Ortagus is exploring a run for Congress in Tennessee’s 5th Congressional District,’ Trump wrote then. ‘I couldn’t be happier because she’s an absolute warrior for America First and MAGA!’

‘She won’t bow to the Woke Mob or the Leftist LameStream Media,’ he concluded.