5th Congressional District candidates bring in nearly $2.7 million on hand


As the Republican primary in Tennessee’s new 5th congressional district heats up, campaigns last week brought in nearly $2.7 million in cash at the end of the first quarter.

The two candidates with the biggest war chests have invested heavily in their own campaigns.

Nashville attorney and retired National Guardsman Brig. General Kurt Winstead filled his campaign coffers with nearly $500,000, while entrepreneur Baxter Lee loaned his campaign more than $300,000, an amount exactly matching the fundraising total at the end of the first trimester.

But Lee, Morgan Ortagus and Robby Starbuck were all dropped from the Republican primary ballot on Tuesday night after the state party’s executive committee voted on good faith challenges for all three.

In a statement, Ortagus said his team is “evaluating the options available to us” following the deletion vote. The Lee and Starbuck campaigns also criticized the party’s decision.

After:Tennessee GOP kicks Trump-backed Morgan Ortagus, Baxter Lee and Robby Starbuck out of primary

INTENSIFIED PRIMARY:5th Republican Congressional Primary heats up as state party considers challenges in good faith

FEC filings showed no processed data for Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles, another Republican in the field, as of April 19. Democrat Heidi Campbell filed a quarterly report showing no fundraising activity because she just launched her campaign.

The district includes parts of Davidson, Williamson, and Wilson counties, as well as the rural counties of Lewis, Maury, and Marshall.

The Republican and Democratic primaries are on August 4.

Current U.S. Representative Jim Cooper, D-Nashville, has announced he will not seek re-election following an aggressive redistricting process that moved the district into Republican territory.

Here’s how much the candidates have raised, in order of who has the most money on hand as of March 31.

Kurt Winstead

Retired Brig. General Kurt Winstead raised nearly $520,000 and loaned his campaign $480,000.

Winstead reported minimum spend for website services of less than $2,000, and with more than $999,000 in cash, he led the pack at the end of the first quarter.

The majority of Winstead’s fundraising has taken place in Tennessee. A campaign statement noted that more than 70% of donations to his campaign came from “counties in the newly drawn 5th congressional district.”

Baxter Lee

Lee brought in $317,380 from individual contributions on Friday, which he matched with personal funds. Lee loaned his campaign $100,000 in late January and added another 217,380 on March 31.

Former U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander contributed to Lee’s campaign.

Lee spent the most of the 5th District candidates except for Robby Starbuck, who announced his candidacy months before his competitors.

Lee’s campaign has spent more than $20,000 with the Nashville-based political consulting firm Red Dog Media, run by longtime Republican operative Chip Saltsman. Another $10,000 for campaign advice went to S&S Strategies, also operated by Saltsman.

Lee declared $563,904 in cash at the end of the first quarter.

Morgan Ortagus

Ortagus reported $591,418 in total contributions, the majority of which came from outside Tennessee.

The campaign’s largest reported expense was nearly $10,000 spent with a California-based marketing company for postal services. Ortagus also paid thousands in “processing fees” to a technology provider for WinRed, a Trump-endorsed Republican fundraising platform.

More than $435,000 of Ortagus’ war chest came through WinRed, according to documents filed by the FEC.

Ortagus declared $554,054 in cash at the end of the filing period.

Beth Harwell

A former president of Tennessee House, Harwell has grossed more than $350,000 since announcing her candidacy in late February.

In a campaign statement, Harwell said 98% of donations came from the Tennesseans.

Harwell’s major individual backers include former Governor Bill Haslam and his wife, in addition to prominent Nashville businessmen like Tom Cone Sr. and Mike Hodges.

Harwell also withdrew funds from a national Republican PAC aimed at supporting female candidates.

The campaign spent just under $17,000, including WinRed fees and database services.

Harwell declared $343,745 in cash.

Robby Starbuck

Despite announcing its candidacy early last year, Starbuck has lagged in fundraising.

The Starbuck campaign brought in $359,593 in total revenue, including an $8,000 personal loan. Over $220,000 came through WinRed.

Starbuck reported more expenses than the slew of candidates just announcing in 2022. Its largest expenses went to a Texas-based communications and marketing company, as well as a California law firm.

He contributed $2,000 in November to a campaign account for U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, who had previously endorsed Starbuck for the 5th. Starbuck has also contributed to Congressional Republican campaigns in Georgia, New Hampshire and New York.

Starbuck ended the quarter with $172,264 in cash.

Contact Melissa Brown at [email protected]

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