State High Court Won’t Return Ousted GOP Hopeful | National Policy

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee’s highest court ruled Friday that the state’s Republican Party did not violate open meeting laws when it ousted a congressional hopeful in the GOP primary ballot.

The Supreme Court ruling overturns a lower court ruling that ordered video producer Robby Starbuck to reverse the ballot. Last week, the trial court ruled that the Tennessee Republican Party’s state executive committee failed to follow state open meeting laws when it voted to remove Starbuck and others from the ballot in April during a closed session. The Supreme Court reversal came on the last day the state said candidates could be added to the ballot.

Tennessee Republican Party officials said Starbuck, small business owner Baxter Lee and former State Department spokesman Morgan Ortagus did not qualify to be a bona fide Republican when the executive committee met secretly to vote on who would qualify as GOP nominees in the August primary election. However, they have repeatedly refused to explain precisely how this decision was made.

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In court filings, attorneys for the state’s Republican Party argued that the candidates’ withdrawal was a “purely private decision within the party.”

In a statement Friday, Starbuck said it was “heartbroken for the people of Tennessee that this could have happened.”

“The system that was upheld today by the TN Supreme Court is sadly reminiscent of Cuba where a central committee suppresses real candidates and only gives the people party puppets to choose from,” tweeted Starbuck, whose family has fled Cuba for the United States.

According to Friday’s unanimous opinion, the Supreme Court ruled that while the Republican Party’s state primary council must follow Tennessee’s open meeting law, the state’s executive committee does not.

“Under the Tennessee code … the executive committee of a party determines whether a candidate is a bona fide member of the party. Thus, the (executive committee) by statute, acted as the executive committee of the state , and not as the state’s primary counsel, when determining that Mr. Starbuck was not a bona fide Republican,” the justices wrote.

In May, a federal judge also refused to overturn the Republican Party’s ruling on Starbuck. In that case, U.S. District Judge Waverly Crenshaw wrote that the party did not violate the U.S. Constitution.

Starbuck’s attorneys argued that the party’s decision to remove a candidate should be made in the open.

“Rather than simply hold the meeting in public – which even at this late stage the State Executive Committee could have done – the Party therefore wishes to avoid the public knowing how and why the State Executive Committee has decided to remove Mr. Starbuck from the ballot. that he would rather seek an extraordinary appeal to this Court than simply hold the public meeting required by Tennessee law,” his attorneys wrote in their appeal.

Starbuck named only the Republican Party of Tennessee in his lawsuit. Earlier this week, the secretary of state’s office asked to join the appeals process, noting it was not involved in the lawsuit but was subject to the court order.

“We appreciate the Tennessee Supreme Court’s decision in such a timely manner,” Secretary of State Tre Hargett said in a statement Friday. essentially enjoined this office as state officials in a lawsuit we were never a party to.

State GOP rules state that candidates must have voted in three of the last four statewide primaries to be considered “bona fide” Republicans, determined after someone files a CONTESTATION. There is also a party process that allows others to vouch for a person to be considered “good faith” and remain on the ballot, which is determined in a vote by party officials. left.

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