- The Washington Times - Monday, February 7, 2022

Morgan Ortagus, a former State Department spokeswoman in the Trump administration, said Monday she will run for Congress in a redrawn Tennessee district, lending drama to the GOP primary and raising questions about former President Donald Trump’s clout.

“I’m raising my hand to run for Congress in Tennessee District 5,” Ms. Ortagus said on “Fox & Friends.” “The people of Tennessee are amazing. This is an increasingly exciting year to run for the House. I’m very confident that we’re going to take the House back in November.”

Mr. Trump threw his support behind Ms. Ortagus as she prepared in January to run for the 5th Congressional District seat being vacated by Democratic Rep. Jim Cooper. The ex-president called her a warrior for his “America First” agenda.

Yet the move left GOP candidate Robby Starbuck, a 32-year-old former director and producer from California, out in the cold and sparked backlash from Mr. Trump’s own supporters, who see Mr. Starbuck as the true embodiment of their movement and Ms. Ortagus as an establishment figure.

“I endorsed @robbystarbuck months ago and I stand by my endorsement,” Rep. Madison Cawthorn, North Carolina Republican, tweeted. “He is the best candidate in the country right now. The MAGA movement needs him in Congress!”

Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, also endorsed Mr. Starbuck early on.

Ms. Ortagus, 39, was a visible presence during the latter half of the Trump administration because she addressed reporters on behalf of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and frequently traveled with the secretary.

Ms. Ortagus said she is well-equipped to handle foreign policy as a former State Department employee and officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve. She also said that, as a mother, she sees the impact of rising prices and constrained supply chains.

“You go to the grocery store, you can only find half the things you need and they’re double the cost,” she said. “You go to fill up your gas tank. It’s double the cost.”

Redrawn maps split reliably blue Nashville into three congressional districts that lean red, prompting Mr. Cooper to retire.

Ms. Ortagus’ entry into the GOP primary throws an even bigger spotlight on the 5th District and raises thorny questions, once again, about Mr. Trump’s endorsements.

Mr. Trump endorsed former Sen. David Perdue in the governor’s race in Georgia, but he hasn’t pulled ahead of incumbent Gov. Brian Kemp, who resisted Mr. Trump’s attempts to try and overturn the 2020 election results.

The ex-president’s endorsement of Sean Parnell in Pennsylvania’s Senate race ruffled some feathers and the candidate left the race, anyway, amid a legal battle involving child custody.

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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