Feb 8, 2022 - Politics

Backed by Trump, Morgan Ortagus launches congressional bid

Morgan Ortagus speaks in front of an American flag
Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Morgan Ortagus, a Navy reservist, business executive and former state department spokesperson, officially entered Tennessee's 5th congressional district race on Monday.

  • Incumbent U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, a Democrat, announced his retirement after the district was redrawn to favor Republicans.

Why it matters: The Republican primary for the District 5 seat is expected to be a battle royale.

  • While Ortagus is a Nashville newcomer, she enters the fray with the ultimate weapon — former President Trump gave her a resounding endorsement before she launched her campaign.

Between the lines: Ortagus met with Axios at the Green Hills office of Baker Group Strategies, the political consulting firm operated by influential Republican strategist Ward Baker.

  • Ortagus, 39, is married to a General Motors executive. The couple has a 15-month-old daughter.
  • Ortagus and her sister were the first in their family to graduate from college. She worked in finance after getting her degree. Prior to serving as spokesperson for the state department under Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Ortagus worked in the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Treasury Department.
  • Last year, she helped launch the health care investment firm Rubicon Founders.

State of play: Democrats blasted the Republican-led redistricting that transformed the 5th and split Nashville among three districts. They said it would dilute Nashville's influence.

  • Ortagus says it will be "crucially important" to work with local leaders on both sides of the aisle.
  • "I'd love to shake the hand of every voter who wants to meet with me, who wants to have a coffee with me. I want to hear about their needs, their concerns and their hopes for the future."

What she's saying: Ortagus' recent arrival in Nashville represents "a lot of people who move to Nashville, who move to Tennessee for a better life."

  • "When I heard about this seat coming open, I've always been willing to raise my hand to serve," Ortagus says. "I did that in the Trump administration. I did that in the military. I'm just a person that likes to get in the fight."

The intrigue: Border security would be her top issue if elected, and Ortagus bashed President Biden for rolling back Trump-era immigration policies.

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