GOP front-runner lies low in open US House race in Nashville

Oct 4, 2022, 7:58 AM | Updated: 8:36 am

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Nearly two months after far-right conservative Andy Ogles secured the Republican nomination in a reconfigured congressional district that cuts into left-leaning Nashville, the former rural county mayor has largely vanished from the public arena.

In August, Ogles won a nine-way primary race for the state’s 5th Congressional District, which GOP lawmakers in Tennessee had drawn up with an eye toward flipping a seat. Ogles set a bombastic tone in his victory speech, declaring a war “to get back to honoring God and country” and proclaiming: “Liberals, we’re coming for you.”

But in the weeks since, Ogles has shied away from public events and posted sparingly to social media. The last event he shared online showed him swinging on a thrill ride at a Maury County fair last month, though he has attended a handful of Republican meet-and-greets. His campaign has posted interviews with Republican state lawmakers talking about issues in the district, but Ogles does not appear in them.

Ogles’ Democratic opponent, state Sen. Heidi Campbell, accused him of refusing invitations to seven debates and forums ahead of the November election.

The district has drawn national attention this year because of Republicans’ effort to carve up Nashville, a longtime Democratic stronghold, to squeeze out one more GOP seat in ruby-red Tennessee. The Republican candidate’s low profile has only added to concerns that the city’s next congressional representative may not take its citizens’ concerns seriously.

Campbell has been left to call out Ogles on social media over positions she thinks go further right than the district’s voters.

This week, she posted video of Ogles saying in a June GOP candidate forum in Wilson County that the “next thing we have to do is go after gay marriage” by allowing each state to decide whether marriage for same-sex couples should be legal there. Campbell’s campaign said the comment shows Ogles wants to strip more rights and freedoms from Americans, calling it an “extreme abuse of power.”

A spokesperson for Ogles did not return phone messages and emails seeking comment.

Campbell and other Democrats argue that candidates seeking elected office should not shy away from questions on where they stand.

“Voters deserve a public debate from candidates who run for Congress,” Campbell said in a statement. “Families deserve to hear why he wants to defund public schools, ban abortion nationwide and increase prescription drug costs on seniors. I guess if I had to defend his ugly record, I’d be hiding, too.”

A news outlet was able to interview Ogles on Sept. 1 at the county fair, where he didn’t directly say whether he backs a national abortion ban. He instead argued that Campbell was making “ridiculous claims” and that the U.S. Supreme Court was right to refer “the issue back to the states.” He later downplayed the need to include exemptions for rape and incest in abortion bans as a “red herring” but said he supports one to save the life of the mother.

Ogles’ low profile fits in Republican-dominated Tennessee, where clearing the GOP primary is often the main hurdle to high political office. Tennesseans haven’t elected a Democrat to statewide office in nearly two decades, and Republicans control seven of nine congressional districts.

“The strategy is this: Don’t let anyone get to your right in the Republican primary; win that, and that’s all that matters,” said Kent Syler, a political science professor at Middle Tennessee State University.

That could be more effective in the 5th than it used to be. Tennessee Republicans spent months redrawing the Nashville-based district with the hopes of gaining an additional GOP seat in Congress. The move spurred Nashville’s longtime Democratic representative, Jim Cooper, not to seek reelection, creating an open race in a newly drawn district — now snaking through six counties — that favored Donald Trump over Joe Biden by 12 percentage points in 2020.

“What Ogles is doing is basically trying to run out the clock on the election without making a mistake,” Syler said.

Campbell hopes national issues that have surfaced this year — primarily, the end of the constitutional right to abortion — mean Republicans are overestimating their odds. According to the latest campaign finance reports, she had about $247,000 cash on hand as of mid-July, while Ogles had about $283,000 available — but so far the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee hasn’t added the 5th to the list of seats it plans to spend defending.

It’s not uncommon for heavily favored candidates to avoid debates. Republican Gov. Bill Lee is seeking a second term this cycle and has not yet agreed to any debates, and some Republicans in other states have sidestepped debates by pointing out that they’re often organized by news outlets derided by some in the party as biased.

Others are avoiding them in an attempt to further align with Trump, who has raised questions about whether they’re run fairly. But some Democrats are avoiding debates, too, especially in races where they are heavily favored.

While Campbell ran unopposed in the Democratic primary, Ogles participated in multiple GOP primary debates. At one July event, he criticized former House Speaker Beth Harwell — then a leading contender — for refusing to show up and answer questions on immigration.

“It’s up for us, in this election, to be heard,” he said then. “To stand and demand that we have people … show up, to be heard, to be questioned and not run away from a fight.”

___

Associated Press reporter Jonathan Mattise in Nashville contributed to this report.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

TV anchors T.J. Holmes, Amy Robach leave ABC amid romance

NEW YORK (AP) — T.J. Holmes and Amy Robach, anchors at the afternoon extension of ABC’s “Good Morning America,” are leaving the network after their romance was reported in November. The pair were taken off the air and placed on temporary hiatus after photos surfaced of them holding hands and spending time together. Both were […]
14 hours ago
Associated Press

Delaware Gov. John Carney tests positive for COVID-19

WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — Delaware Gov. John Carney has tested positive for COVID-19, the governor’s office announced on Saturday. Carney tested positive late Friday using an at-home antigen test after experiencing mild symptoms, according to a news release. Carney, 66, said he’s “feeling fine” and is isolating himself — following U.S. Centers for Disease Control […]
14 hours ago
FILE - FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried leaves Manhattan federal court on Jan. 3, 2023, in New York, a...
Associated Press

FTX’s Sam Bankman-Fried, DOJ tussle over his communications

Federal prosecutors are trying to prohibit FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried from privately contacting current and former employees of the bankrupt cryptocurrency exchange to prevent potential witness tampering in a criminal case accusing him of bilking investors and customers. The request, made in a letter filed late Friday by U.S. Justice Department lawyers, prompted an indignant […]
14 hours ago
Associated Press

Challenge for Tunisian democracy: Getting voters to show up

TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — Tunisia was once the Arab world’s hope for a new era of democracy. Now it’s in the midst of an election that’s more of an embarrassment than a model. Barely 11% of voters turned out in the first round of parliamentary elections last month, boycotted by opposition Islamists and ignored by […]
14 hours ago
Associated Press

Philippines probes labor abuses in Kuwait after new killing

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The Philippine government said Saturday it will take steps to assess and prevent abuses including rape and maltreatment of Filipino workers in Kuwait, after a housemaid was killed and dumped in a desert in the oil-rich emirate. The remains of Jullebee Ranara were flown home Friday night from Kuwait, where the […]
14 hours ago
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni speaks during a conference in Tripoli, Libya, Saturday, Jan. ...
Associated Press

Italy, Libya sign $8B gas deal as PM Meloni visits Tripoli

CAIRO (AP) — Italy’s prime minister held talks in Libya on Saturday with officials from the country’s west-based government focusing on energy and migration, top issues for Italy and the European Union. During the visit, the two countries’ oil companies signed a gas deal worth $8 billion — the largest single investment in Libya’s energy […]
14 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Company looking for oldest air conditioner and wants to reward homeowner with new one

Does your air conditioner make weird noises or a burning smell when it starts? If so, you may be due for an AC unit replacement.
...
Fiesta Bowl Foundation

Celebrate 50 years of Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade magic!

Since its first production in the early 1970s, the Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade presented by Lerner & Rowe has been a staple of Valley traditions, bringing family fun and excitement to downtown Phoenix.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Prep the plumbing in your home just in time for the holidays

With the holidays approaching, it's important to know when your home is in need of heating and plumbing updates before more guests start to come around.
GOP front-runner lies low in open US House race in Nashville