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Conservative Candidate Kicked Off Ballot Sues Tennessee GOP

'This is not communist Cuba, where my family escaped from... '

(Headline USAOne of the congressional candidates booted off the ballot in Tennessee has filed a lawsuit against the state GOP, alleging the party unfairly shut down his campaign.

Robby Starbuck, who is running in the state’s 5th congressional district, accused Republican state officials of using “secret and irregular means to prevent a free and fair election.” 

“This is not communist Cuba, where my family escaped from. In America, the party doesn’t get to just hand-pick their buddies —the PEOPLE get to choose the candidate they want on Election Day,” Starbuck said in a press release.

“This lawsuit is a testing point — and hopefully a turning point — that could end this type of backroom politics that should have gone out of style decades ago.”

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In the lawsuit, Starbuck accused the Tennessee GOP of using an unconstitutional “camouflaged residency requirement” to disqualify him from the race.

“Based on the [Tennessee Republican Party’s] early statements about its standards and process, it was apparently making them up as it went along,” the lawsuit claims.

“The TRP’s decision to disqualify Mr. Starbuck is essentially a camouflaged residency requirement, which it arrives at by a contorted, arbitrary application of its authority to limit primary candidates to bona fide party members.”

He cited a text message exchange between a party member and a State Executive Committee official, in which the official said she voted to bar Starbuck from the race because of the residency law.

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“I voted because of the new state residency law. [Ortagus] nor Starbuck met the new law. And Lee had voted for a Democrat,” the official said in the text.

The effect of the residency law was “to clear a path” for Beth Harwell, the former Tennessee GOP chairwoman, Starbuck alleged.

“A law advanced by Sen. Frank S. Niceley, who has made no secret of his desire to use this new law to help the candidacy of Ms. Harwell, his friend, and block Mr. Starbuck and Ms. Ortagus from the election because he considers them ‘carpetbaggers,'” the lawsuit states.

“But the law in question is not even in effect for this election cycle, begging the question of what, exactly, motivated the TRP’s decision, which is either arbitrary at best, or deliberately rigged to benefit a party insider, at worst,” the lawsuit said.

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