By Steve Hunley

Carpetbagger:  a politician who takes up residence in a place and runs for office without having strong ties to the area.

Any opportunistic or exploitative outsider.


Representative Dave Wright has shepherded a bill through the Tennessee House of Representatives which requires candidates for federal office – – – the Congress or the United States Senate – – – to meet the same residency requirement as members of the General Assembly.  Members of the Tennessee General Assembly must meet a three-year residency requirement.  Wright’s bill is a companion to the legislation sponsored by State Senator Frank Niceley in the Senate.  Representative Wright’s bill, House Bill 2764, was approved 86 to 0; six members voted “present.”  Niceley’s bill has already passed the state Senate where it received the vote of both Republicans and Democrats and only one member voted against the bill.

Currently, the House and Senate bills do not match and Representative Wright intends to move to change that and conform the House version to that of the Senate.

The Wright-Niceley Bill is especially significant in light of the race for Congress in Tennessee’s new Fifth Congressional District where several candidates don’t meet the residency requirements.  Morgan Ortagus, a one-time spokesperson for the State Department under Mike Pompeo, who has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump, has apparently never even voted in Tennessee.  Nor does Ortagus live in the district she aspires to represent in the House.  Robby Starbuck, the sometime music video guy with the man-bun and cohort of Christine Cruz, is another candidate who likely would not meet the new residency requirements.  Starbuck, whose legal name is Robert Starbuck Newsom, seems to have an evolving answer about his residency in the Volunteer State.  Appearing on Nashville’s Morning News With Dan Mandis radio program, Starbuck gave the following explanation:

“And so I answered that I had voted in the previous primaries and I was actually counting, what would count – is it one or two – and I ended up saying two. So you could hear me confused during the answer, and the reason I was confused was because what we had been told recently, up to that day, was that because I was registered to vote in Tennessee, I should have voted in these primaries. But the problem is, I wasn’t a full-time resident. I had gotten my license when we had gotten a rental house here and we were sort of transitioning our kids here and transitioning – I was still closing down my business in California.

So because I was technically registered when I got my license, they count those as two missing primaries but the reality and the facts are that in California, where it’s a closed primary state, you know, I was always registered Republican.”

Previously, Starbuck had claimed to have voted in both the March 2020 and August 2020 Republican primaries in Tennessee.  Starbuck’s claims were not verified by his actual voting record and while he tried to discredit reports he did not meet the standard already set by the Tennessee State Republican Executive Committee, he finally acknowledged that he had not voted in either primary because he wasn’t a full-time resident of Tennessee at the time.

State Representative Tim Rudd, who served on the Tennessee Republican State Executive Committee for 18 years and is chair of the House Elections Subcommittee, pointed out if the SEC was doing its job, the Niceley-Wright Bill wouldn’t have been necessary.

Robby Starbuck has announced he won’t answer any further inquiries about his residency and is threatening legal action should he be ruled off the ballot.

Senator Niceley has addressed the constitutionality of his bill by reminding folks of what the late Justice Antonin Scalia said: “Nothing in the Constitution deprives the people of each state of the power to prescribe eligibility requirements for the candidates who seek to represent them in Congress. The Constitution is simply silent on this question. And where the Constitution is silent, it raises no bar to action by the people in other states.”

The residency requirement legislation is needed due to the proliferation of carpetbaggers coming to Tennessee.  It is impossible for an aspiring public official to understand and represent communities without having lived in an area.  Unfortunately, we have some folks here in Knox County who don’t know the difference between Corryton and Burlington.

More on Carpetbaggers

Speaking of carpetbaggers, regular readers will remember then-chair of the Knox County Republican Party Randy Pace appointed Christine Cruz, who had never even voted in a Knox County Republican primary, to head the Credentials Committee.  Cruz was in charge of vetting Republicans who had funded the party, held office as Republicans long before either she or Randy Pace floated into town, and who had helped to elect the GOP ticket from the White House to the Courthouse.  Every person who intended to attend the party convention was required to fill out information providing name, address, and email address.  Last week saw an email arrive to all those who attended the party convention from a judicial candidate who had the good sense to hire the Angle Group as his campaign consultants.  The Angle Group was comprised of four people: Daniel Herrera, Ally Jeffries, Justin Mash, and Drew Lonergan.  A self-described lobbying and political consulting firm, it has been the source of controversy ever since and many party members believe Daniel Herrera, Randy Pace’s understudy as chair of the local party, had a serious conflict of interest as a member of a firm monetizing campaigns, especially against sitting GOP incumbents.  Herrera claims to have surrendered his interest in the firm, but has never provided any documentation that I am aware of; Scott Golden, chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party seems content to take Herrera’s word for it.  Yet the party’s mailing list seems to be available only to select candidates who are, coincidentally, clients of the Angle Group.

Cruz was herself an announced candidate for an at-large seat on the Knox County Commission against incumbent Larsen Jay. Her campaign consultant?  Why, the Angle Group of course.  Of course, Cruz’s campaign went nowhere fast, guided to well-deserved oblivion by the prowess of the Angle Group.  Party members receive invites to the events of Angle Group candidate events and nobody else seems to have access to the email list.

I certainly did not sign up for Christine Cruz’s mailing list, yet I was duly reminded of any event her campaign was having.  Keep in mind, Cruz was “introduced” at her campaign kickoff by Randy Pace.  Pace, who speaks endlessly when he has grabbed a microphone, blithely admitted Cruz’s husband blamed him for her candidacy.  Two out of three of the candidates in Knox County who hired the Angle Group didn’t even make it to the primary before dropping out.  Not exactly a sterling record for a consulting firm.

Of course, Herrera, Pace and company all claim they aren’t taking sides in any primary contests, which apparently only Scott Golden believes.  Now Pace is running for the Tennessee State Executive Committee.  Look for yet another candidate to enter that particular primary contest and another unsolicited email.