Tennessee congressional hopeful Robby Starbuck has been removed from the state’s ballot in the latest ruling in a lengthy legal battle.
Starbuck was one of three people campaigning in Tennessee’s 5th Congressional district who were not included in the primary after the state party ruled they were not “bona fide” Republicans.
The Tennessee Supreme Court ruled on June 8 that the state’s Republican Party had not violated the Tennessee Open Meetings Act when they voted to pull Starbuck from the primary.
“Because, by statute, a party’s state executive committee decides whether a candidate is a bona fide member of the party, the Court concluded that the Republican Party was acting as a state executive committee when they determined that Mr. Starbuck was not a bona fide Republican,” reports The Chattanoogan. “As a result, the Court vacated the trial court’s order granting Mr. Starbuck a temporary injunction requiring him to be placed on the ballot and remanded the case to the trial court to resolve any other remaining claims.”
The decision comes days after Chancellor Russell Perkins granted Starbuck an injunction, allowing his name to be restored to the ballot.
The first-time candidate moved from California to Williamson County in 2019. A music video producer, Starbuck has been endorsed by Donald Trump, Congressman Ken Buck, and former Congressman Madison Cawthorn.
In March, the state legislature passed a law that prohibited anyone who has not resided in Tennesee for three consecutive prior elections to filing for office from being included in a primary for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives or Senate. The bill, S.B. 2616, was ostensibly designed to bar “carpetbaggers” — or people who move to a vulnerable district to get elected — from occupying a federal position.
Starbuck, Baxter Lee, and Morgan Ortagus were still allowed to stay on the ballot when S.B. 2616 became law as they had already met the April 7 filing deadline.
On April 19, the Tennessee Republican Party voted to remove Starbuck, Lee, and Ortagus from the ballot following a formal challenge to their candidacy.
Starbuck denounced the party’s vote as a blow to election integrity and vowed to take legal action.
“[The] Tennessee Republican party will regret it for a long time,” he told TimCast in an interview. “Elections are supposed to be the will of the people…The Party’s action has disenfranchised their own voters.”
On May 2, Starbuck sued GOP Chair Scott Golden, Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett and state coordinator of elections Mark Goins in federal court. He said removing him from the ballot was unconstitutional.
“The bitter fight over the redistricting process, quickly followed by the battle over if Starbuck should be allowed on the ballot, has created an air of disarray around the District 5 primary,” reports Axios.
Ballot distribution is scheduled to begin on June 20 and early voting takes place on July 15.