Tennessee GOP Rep. Andy Ogles draws Republican and Democratic challengers

Tennessee Rep. Andy Ogles will have Republican opposition in the August Primary as he seeks to retain a congressional seat passing through Nashville.

Officeholders including the first-term congressman from Columbia learned who their challengers will be as candidates met last week’s filing deadline for state and federal positions.

The deadline passed while Republicans remained stalled over legislation that would prevent Democratic state Rep. Gloria Johnson from running simultaneously for Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn’s seat and for reelection to the Legislature. She qualified for both, and is unopposed in her state House race.

Ogles, a member of the House Freedom Caucus who secured former President Donald Trump’s endorsement for his reelection, will face Tom Guarente, a cybersecurity expert from Brentwood, and Courtney Johnston, a Nashville Metro Council member, in the Republican Primary.

Multiple Democrats also qualified to run for the seat, including Maryam Abolfazli, who founded the civic engagement nonprofit named Rise and Shine Tennessee, and Arnie Malham, who also is from Nashville.

Ogles emerged from a crowded Primary field last time to win his seat by 13 percentage points in November 2022, flipping what had been a Democratic seat. Republican-led redistricting carved left-leaning Nashville into three districts that all favor the GOP. Eight congressional seats in Tennessee are now Republican-held. Only one is represented by a Democrat.

In January 2023, Ogles was among the Republican holdouts in Kevin McCarthy’s prolonged speakership nomination, voting against him 11 times before switching to support him. When McCarthy was ousted in October, Ogles voted against removing him.

Ogles has faced scrutiny for issues outside of the Capitol. For instance, he ultimately replied that he was “mistaken” when he said he graduated with an international relations degree after a local news outlet raised questions over whether he had embellished his resume.

In other districts, GOP Reps. Diana Harshbarger, Tim Burchett, Chuck Fleischmann and John Rose won’t face Primary opponents in their heavily Republican-favoring districts.

Republicans with Primary foes also include Rep. Scott DesJarlais, who faces Thomas Davis from Morrison, Joe Doctora from Smyrna and Joshua James from Murfreesboro. Rep. Mark Green, who announced his retirement only to jump back into the race, faces Caleb Stack from Pleasant View. Rep. David Kustoff will take on George Shea Flinn, Jr. from Memphis.

Each of the eight Republican congressional incumbents drew at least one Democratic opponent. Most notably, former Nashville Mayor Megan Barry will avoid a Democratic Primary as she vies for Green’s seat, one of the three that wends through Nashville. Green defeated a Democratic opponent there in 2022 by 22 points.

Near the top of the ballot, the Senate race featuring Blackburn and Johnson includes primary competition for both. Republicans have held both of Tennessee’s Senate seats since 1994.

In the GOP Primary, Blackburn faces former legislative staffer Tres Wittum, who finished last out of nine GOP hopefuls in the 2022 primary in the congressional district won by Ogles.

Johnson has four Democratic rivals. One, Marquita Bradshaw, scored an upset win in the Democratic Primary for Senate in 2020 before Republican Sen. Bill Hagerty beat her by 27 points to win his first term. She became the first Black woman nominated for statewide office by either major political party in Tennessee, according to the state Democratic Party.

Lola Denise Brown of Nashville, Kevin Lee McCants of Murfreesboro and Civil Miller-Watkins of Rossville round out the Democratic field for Blackburn’s seat.

A slew of independent candidates have filed for various races, including Pamela Moses for U.S. Senate. Moses was convicted in 2021 for registering to vote illegally in Memphis in 2019 and was sentenced to six years and one day in prison. At the time, legal experts said her sentence was excessive. She has said she was unaware that she was ineligible to vote. Prosecutors declined to keep pursuing charges after she was granted a new trial.

At the statehouse, where Republicans hold supermajorities in both chambers, Democrats fielded candidates for 12 of 16 Senate seats on the ballot, and 75 of all 99 House seats. In 2022, Democrats ran candidates in 10 of the 17 Senate seats up for grabs, and 54 of 99 House seats.


Republished with permission from The Associated Press.

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