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Primaries continue with Tennessee voting on Thursday

Open seat left by Cooper in redrawn district draws nine Republicans

Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., decided to retire after the 5th District he represents was redrawn, and nine Republicans are running for the nomination to replace him.
Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., decided to retire after the 5th District he represents was redrawn, and nine Republicans are running for the nomination to replace him. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Primary voters in Tennessee head to the polls Thursday to pick candidates for the November elections, including a GOP nominee in a House district that Republicans are looking to flip.

Nine Republicans are vying for their party’s nomination in the state’s newly drawn 5th District, where Democratic Rep. Jim Cooper opted not to run for reelection. The contest has attracted $3 million in outside spending, federal disclosures show, with nearly $2.2 million of that focused on either supporting or opposing candidate Andy Ogles, a business owner. 

The Club for Growth Action is backing the biggest-spending group in the primary, USA Freedom Fund, which has invested nearly $790,000 in support of Ogles. Another group, called the School Freedom Fund, has disclosed spending $165,000 supporting Ogles and another $700,000 opposing Army National Guard veteran Kurt Winstead and Beth Harwell, a former professor at Belmont University. Jeff Yass, a billionaire donor, has donated $15 million to the School Freedom Fund, FEC records show

Winstead had the most cash on hand, more than $400,000, as of July 15; he loaned his campaign $1.1 million. Harwell had almost $400,000 cash on hand as of July 15, while Ogles held just shy of $300,000. Republican Morgan Ortagus, who had the endorsement of former President Donald Trump, was removed from the ballot and was advising Winstead’s campaign, according to news reports.

State Sen. Heidi Campbell is running unopposed in the 5th District Democratic primary. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race in November as Likely Republican, a reflection of the new district lines that led Cooper to head for the exit.  

The 5th District is the only House race that’s competitive in the state, but some incumbents are facing primary challenges on Tuesday, if only nominal. 

Democratic Rep. Steve Cohen has a primary opponent in the 9th District, M. Latroy Alexandria-Williams, who has not disclosed raising any money. Three Republicans are competing to take on Cohen in the general election: businesswoman Charlotte Bergmann, businessman Brown Dudley and Leo AwGoWhat, an unsuccessful mayoral candidate.

No outside groups have reported independent expenditures in the district. Inside Elections rates the race as Solid Democratic for the fall. 

GOP Rep. Chuck Fleischmann has a primary opponent, Sandy Casey, who disclosed raising a total of $21,000, according to FEC disclosures. Fleischmann held $2.3 million in his campaign account as of July 15. Outside groups had not disclosed any expenditures in the district as of Tuesday.

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Photos of the week ending April 19, 2024