And she’s not the only one.
The entire GOP field in the Nashville-based seat is in chaos after the Tennessee Republican Party State Executive Committee (SEC) voted to remove Ortagus, Robby Starbuck and Baxter Lee from the ballot.
By many accounts, Ortagus and Starbuck had split the vote between President Trump’s most enthusiastic supporters.
Ortagus won Trump’s endorsement in January. While she had plenty of support from grassroots conservatives, many rallied around Starbuck.
Ortagus’ fiercest critics included Matt Gaetz, Sebastian Gorka and Candace Owens. Owens called Trump’s endorsement “completely wrong.”
Ortagus’ rivals questioned her decision to move to the district last year and her unabashed support for Jeb Bush in the 2016 Republican Party presidential primaries.
Tennessee GOP Chairman Scott Golden confirmed to The Tennessee Star late last night that the state party had removed Ortagus, Starbuck and Lee. Their removal came one week after official challenges to their bona fide Republican statuses triggered a technical removal from the ballot per party bylaws.
The Nashville Tennessean has more on the ex-candidates’ reactions:
“I’m a bonafide Republican by their standards, and frankly, by any metric,” Ortagus said in a statement. “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. As I have said all along, I believe that voters in Middle Tennessee should pick their representative – not establishment party insiders. Our team is evaluating the options before us.”
Chip Saltsman, Lee’s campaign manager, said the decision to remove Lee was “ridiculous.”
Lee was kicked off because he hadn’t voted in the three of the last four Tennessee August Republican primaries, according to Saltsman.
When asked for comment, Starbuck sent a brief video with dramatic music and the word, “War.”
Starbuck hasn’t yet voted in a Republican primary in Tennessee. He registered to vote in the state in July 2019 after moving there from California. He did not vote in the state’s 2020 GOP primary.
However, he did post a message on social media after the vote, “The fight has only just begun. We can’t let RINO’s destroy our party.”
The Tennessee Star further reports:
All three had an opportunity to request that the SEC restore their names to the GOP primary ballot before the SEC sends its final list of candidates qualified to appear on the GOP primary ballot to the Tennessee Secretary of State on April 21.
The 17-member committee of SEC denied those requests. Sources tell The Star that the appeals of Ortagus and Starbuck to be restored to the GOP primary ballot were overwhelmingly rejected in separate 13 to 3 votes. Baxter Lee’s request for restoration was rejected in a 10 to 6 vote.
TNGOP bylaws allow for candidates’ Republican bona fide status to be challenged if they were not considered active members in the TNGOP, local party, or recognized affiliate, did not vote in three of the last four statewide Republican primaries, or in races where there is a Republican incumbent, have not been “vouched for” as bona fide Republicans to the satisfaction of the 17-member committee, or did not submit a filing fee.
Ortagus registered to vote in Tennessee in November of 2021 and has never voted in a Tennessee election.
It is unknown if any of the three candidates will pursue a legal challenge; however, Aaron Gulbransen of The Tennessee Star reports that the state party’s ruling “is on very strong legal ground and is protected by statute.”