Morgan Ortagus, the former Trump State Department spokeswoman who announced her campaign to represent the 5th Congressional District on Monday, does not live in that district and is instead a resident of the 7th Congressional District, according to records read to The Tennessee Star.
A Davidson County Election Commission official confirmed Ortagus’ current address and voter registration in Nashville to The Star.
The official told The Star they share voting history of registered voters in Davidson County as a matter of public record, but there was no voting history document to share, as Ortagus did not register to vote in Tennessee until November 29, 2021, and has not voted in any Tennessee election.
A native of Florida, Ortagus subsequently lived in New York City and Washington, D.C. Sources tell The Star Ortagus voted in the June 2020 GOP primary in the District of Columbia. She served in the Trump administration as a State Department spokesperson from 2019 to 2021. She accepted a position with a Nashville company in February 2021 and established her Tennessee residency some time between February 2021 and November 2021.
The Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury posted a website tool that enables the user to enter an address and search to see what district that address is located in now that redistricting has completed, a tool The Star accessed.
Ortagus did live in the 5th district when she registered to vote this past November, but the new district lines show her current address is in the 7th district.
Candidates for Tennessee State Senate and State House have district-specific voter registration and residency requirements.
According to the Tennessee Secretary of State’s office website, a candidate must have been a citizen of Tennessee for three years and a resident in the county one year immediately preceding the election, and a qualified voter of the legislative district by Election Day.
Residency in the district is not a requirement for U.S. House of Representatives elections, however.
The Secretary of State’s office describes the minimum qualifications for U.S. House candidates: “To hold the office of United States representative, a person must be at least 25 years of age and a citizen of the United States for seven years. When elected, the person must be a Tennessee resident.”
Tennessee residency is not hard to obtain. There are several factors that the Tennessee Secretary of State’s office uses to determine residency.
The residence of a person is the place where the person’s habitation is fixed and is where, during periods of absence, the person definitely intends to return.
The following factors may be considered:
The person’s possession, acquisition or surrender of inhabitable property;
Location of the person’s occupation;
Place of licensing or registration of the person’s personal property;
Place of payment of taxes which are governed by residence;
Purpose for a person’s presence in a particular place; and
Place of the person’s licensing for activities such as driving.
The place where a married person’s spouse and family live is presumed to be that person’s residence, unless that person takes up or continues abode with the intention of remaining in a place other than where the spouse and family reside.
A person is allowed to only have one primary residence. Residency changes are made “not only by relocation, but also by intent to remain in the new location permanently, and by demonstrating actions consistent with that intention.” Absence from Tennessee while employed by the United States or Tennessee, or while going to college, or serving prison time, does not solely grant or take away Tennessee residency.
The Star asked the Ortagus campaign to confirm the candidate’s residency details but did not receive a response by press time.
In a shock to many Tennessee Republicans, former President Trump endorsed Ortagus for the 5th Congressional District seat on January 25, 2022 — more than a week before she formally announced her candidacy.
Ortagus officially announced her candidacy on Monday, joining a Republican primary field that includes music video director Robby Starbuck, businessman Baxter Lee, Natisha Brooks, and retired Tennessee National Guard Brigadier General Kurt Winstead. Former Tennessee State House Speaker Beth Harwell and Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles may also be considering entering the TN-5 race.
The 5th Congressional District now contains parts of Davidson, Williamson, and Wilson counties; and all of Maury, Marshall, and Lewis counties. Prior to redistricting, it was previously made up of all of Davidson, and parts of Cheatham and Dickson counties.
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Aaron Gulbransen is a reporter at The Tennessee Star and The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected].
How about reporting that Maxine Waters doesn’t live in her district either and hasn’t for years