The Republican candidate pool for Tennessee’s new 5th Congressional District grew larger on Monday, with former State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus officially announcing her candidacy following an unexpected endorsement from former President Donald Trump.
Ortagus leaned on Trump’s endorsement on Monday, noting her time spent at the State Department under his administration.
“As a U.S. Navy Reserve Officer, I am answering the call to service, and I will never back down from fighting for my country and the good people of Tennessee to stand for American greatness,” Ortagus said. “I’m grateful to have President Trump’s support, and I look forward to earning your vote and standing with you to protect our conservative values.”
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The Fox News national security commentator is a Florida native and recent Nashville transplant. She worked in both the Obama and George W. Bush administrations, serving as spokesperson with the U.S. Agency for International Development before moving to the Treasury Department as an intelligence analyst.
She joined Rubicon Founders, a health care investment firm based in Nashville, in early 2021, though a Rubicon phone number listed under her name was not active last month and the company has not returned request for comment.
Ortagus does not have strong name recognition in Tennessee, where Trump’s endorsement in January took some by surprise. But the former president’s endorsement will give her an advantage in the primary in a Republican-heavy district.
She joins a crowded field in the 5th’s Republican primary race. Nashville businessman Baxter Lee filed campaign documents last week, while Quincy McKnight entered the race last year before new redistricting lines were drawn.
Trump’s endorsement may have come as a shock to Robby Starbuck, a Franklin transplant who announced his bid for the seat last year. Starbuck had amassed several endorsements among right-wing media personalities and far-right politicians prior to the endorsement. Starbuck has the backing of U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.
Others, including former state House Speaker Beth Harwell, have said they are considering joining the race but have not yet publicly announced. The filing deadline for primary access is April 7.
The 5th District, a longtime Democratic stronghold, is open for grabs following aggressive redistricting that carved up Nashville and forced current Rep. Jim Cooper to announce his retirement.
The new 5th includes parts of Davidson, Williamson and Wilson counties, along with rural Lewis, Maury and Marshall counties.
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