(Headline USA) Andy Ogles, a conservative county mayor, won Tennessee’s crowded Republican primary on Thursday in a reconfigured congressional district in left-leaning Nashville that the party is hoping to flip in November.
In a warning ahead of the general election, he said, “Liberals, we’re coming for you.”
Ogles, the Maury County mayor and onetime leader of the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity’s state chapter, emerged among nine candidates after a hard-fought primary for the state’s 5th Congressional District. The seat drew heavy interest from Republicans after GOP state lawmakers carved Nashville into three districts, leading incumbent Democrat Rep. Jim Cooper to announce his retirement.
“We’re at war. This is a political war, a cultural war, and it’s a spiritual war,” Ogles said in his victory speech. “And as we go forward, we’ve got to get back to honoring God and country.”
Ogles will face Democrat state Sen. Heidi Campbell in November. The new district favored Donald Trump over Joe Biden by 12 percentage points in 2020.
Ogles described the GOP primary as “establishment versus the conservative wing of the party,” saying voters were getting a “true conservative” in his nomination. He didn’t shy from inflammatory comments during his victory speech, calling for the impeachment of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, as well as treason charges against the Department of Homeland Security secretary over the administration’s handling of immigration issues.
Voters in Tennessee’s primary elections also cast ballots for a Democrat gubernatorial nominee to take on Republican Gov. Bill Lee in November. The Democrat primary remained too early to call Friday morning between Nashville physician Jason Martin and Memphis City Councilman JB Smiley Jr.
Smiley would be the state’s first black nominee for governor. Martin, a political newcomer, said he was spurred to run by Lee’s hands-off response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lee will have a strong advantage in November in a state that has not elected a Democrat to statewide office since 2006. He defeated a Democrat opponent by 21 percentage points in 2018.
In the congressional race, Ogles scored Republican Sen. Ted Cruz’s endorsement and overcame a fundraising advantage from his top opponents, former Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell and retired Tennessee National Guard Brig. Gen. Kurt Winstead. He also benefited the most from third-party groups, which ran TV ads touting his opposition to COVID-19 mandates and dragging down his opponents as insufficiently conservative.
Campbell, who was unopposed in her Democrat primary, said the race was “symbolic of the crossroads” the country finds itself at.
“One where we move forward together, protecting working families, our freedoms, and future — or one where extreme politicians turn us backward, controlling our lives and ruling for the wealthy few,” she said before the GOP primary was called for Ogles.
Redrawn congressional districts helped put Tennessee among the states where Republicans hope to flip a seat in a push to reclaim control of the U.S. House. Tennessee held the only statewide elections in the nation Thursday.
In the other two Nashville-area districts, the Republican incumbents didn’t have primary opponents. The new maps weight their districts in their favor.
In the new 6th District, which includes more of the city, Republican U.S. Rep. John Rose brings a huge fundraising edge into a general election against Democrat Randal Cooper, who defeated a primary opponent. Over in the new 7th District, Republican U.S. Rep. Mark Green ran unopposed and will face Democrat Odessa Kelly, who also didn’t face an opponent.
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press