Trump spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus could be knocked out of primary if Tennessee bill passes

The bill comes after criticism that recent Tennessee transplants, like Ortagus and music producer Robbie Starbuck, have decided to run for office.

Updated: February 16, 2022 - 3:02am

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

A Tennessee state Senate committee passed a bill that would require candidates to live in the state for three years before qualifying to run in the primary to serve in the U.S. House or Senate. 

The bill would disqualify former Trump State Department Spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus, who has already received Former President Donald Trump's endorsement, from running in the Republican primary for Tennessee's 5th Congressional District.

Music video director Robby Starbuck said he moved to Tennessee in 2019 and does not believe he would be disqualified from the GOP primary under the proposed law though some of his supporters have expressed concern he might be affected.

The bill amends the state code to: "In order to qualify as a candidate in a primary election for United States senate or for member of the United States house of representatives, a person shall meet the residency requirements for state senators and representatives contained in the Tennesee constitution."

On Tuesday, the Senate's State and Local Government Committee on Tuesday recommended the bill for passage with bipartisan support, The Tennessee Star reported.

"The state constitution says requires that you be a resident of the state for seven years before you can run for governor. You have to be a resident for five years in order to run for judge or DA. You have to be a resident for three years to run for the state House or the state Senate," State Sen. Frank Niceley (R-Tenn.), the sponsor of the bill, told the committee, according to the Star.

"The state constitution and U.S. Constitution are silent on the residency for the Congress and U.S. Senate," he added.

Some in opposition to the bill argue that in 1995 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that congressional term limits were unconstitutional. However, Niceley said his bill is supported by precedent.

The state senator defended his legislation on Twitter after other social media users attacked him. 

One Starbuck supporter called for Niceley to "let Robby run." 

"How am I stopping anyone from running? The correct answer is I’m not," he responded.

"This bill doesn’t or couldn’t stop anyone from running for Congress that meets the minimal requirements of the US Constitution. It only affects party nomination by primary," Niceley tweeted. "Running as an independent remains an option."

Ortagus moved to Nashville in 2021, but public records do not show that she lives in the new 5th Congressional District, the Tennessean reported. 

Starbuck, who has been endorsed by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), moved from California to Tennessee in 2019, according to the Tennessean.