On April 11, 2022, a Tenn. GOP Executive Committee removed Congressional Candidate Robby Starbuck from the ballot, along with Morgan Ortagus and Baxter Lee.
The Tennesean reported.
The Tennessee Republican Party on Tuesday voted to remove three congressional hopefuls from the primary ballot in the new-look 5th Congressional District, including a Trump-backed candidate whose campaign riled some political insiders in the state.
Morgan Ortagus, Baxter Lee and Robby Starbuck were voted off the primary ballot by the party’s executive committee, Tennessee Republican Chairman Scott Golden confirmed Tuesday
Republican officials last week confirmed official challenges had been filed against the three, which triggered a technical removal from the ballot per party bylaws.
Starbuck chose to fight back, contracting civil rights and constitutional attorney Harmeet Dhillon’s Liberty Law Center firm to challenge this decision. Our Managing Editor Jen Van Laar reported exclusively that Dhillon had filed evidence preservation notices to the 17 Tenn. RNC Executive Board Members who were responsible for making the decision to remove him and his opponents from the primary ballot. Starbuck also chose to use the vouching letters method to prove his “bona fide Republican” status according to the requirements of the Tennessee GOP bylaws:
Since Starbuck hasn’t lived in Tennessee long enough to have voted in three of the last four Republican primaries, he had to go the vouching route. He provided 14 vouching letters to the committee, which Starbuck said is the highest number of letters ever presented according to TRP Chair Scott Golden.
Starbuck additionally provided his voting history from when he lived in California.
Starbuck voted in the 2020 General Election and in a local primary vote in 2022 in Tennessee. He provided his California voter history to four county party chairs prior to the April 19 vote, he said, to prove that he regularly voted in California in both primaries and general elections. He has also donated to two county Republican parties and the state party and organized a rally to support GOP candidates in 2020 for the Williamson County Republican Party.
There was suspicion and speculation over the secretive and abrupt manner of removing Starbuck, Ortagus, and Lee from the ballots.
The Court believes that Plaintiff should be awarded a temporary injunction on his claim under the Tennessee Open Meetings Act. The Court concludes that Defendant violated TOMA; this satisfies the likelihood of success factor under Tenn. R. Civ. P. 65.04. Additionally, the Court concludes that Mr. Starbuck will suffer irreparable harm if he were forced to remain off the ballot given that he was excluded from the ballot through a procedure that violates the law.
Chancellor Russell T. Perkins ultimately ruled that the Tenn. GOP violated Tennessee’s open meeting law in making their decision to remove the three from the ballot:
🚨🚨🚨🚨🚨Tennessee court orders our client @robbystarbuck restored to the ballot as a candidate for TN-5 congressional race! Court says TNGOP violated open meeting law and thus its secret meeting picking otherwise-qualified candidates off the ballot was void: pic.twitter.com/0h9H5sLVnY
— Harmeet K. Dhillon (@pnjaban) June 4, 2022
Starbuck’s name must now be restored to the ballot for the August 4, 2022 Tennessee primary. Starbuck rightfully took a victory lap, showing his willingness to fight this fight as clear evidence that he will continue to fight all the way to Washington, D.C.
BREAKING: WE DID IT! WE WON our court case! The court has instructed @TNGOP to tell the state that their decision to kick me off the ballot is invalid! Tennessee needs a fighter and we’ve proven with my relentless pursuit of Justice that I’ll be the fighter TN needs! pic.twitter.com/GucSN72I8j
— Robby Starbuck (@robbystarbuck) June 4, 2022