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Race for Tennessee's 5th Congressional seat heats up ahead of primary day

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Posted at 10:01 PM, Aug 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-03 23:16:55-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Have you made your decisions yet? Election day is Thursday, and in some cities like Nashville, it features the longest ballot in history.

One of the big races is in the 5th Congressional District.

After this year's redistricting, Republicans now stand a strong chance to take over the seat held by Democratic Congressman Jim Cooper.

"This is a chance for the Republicans to take over what has been until it was divided into three parts, a Democratic seat," said NewsChannel 5 Political Analyst Pat Nolan.

The new district has created a slugfest on the airwaves in the Republican party, chiefly among three main candidates: Tennessee Speaker of the House Beth Harwell, Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles, and retired Tennessee Army National Guard Brigadier General Kurt Winstead.

But most of those negative ads viewers see haven't come from the campaigns themselves.

"Particularly when the outside groups came in, that's when the money really started going," Nolan said.

Those outside groups are Political Action Committees; namely Conservative Americans PAC, Tennessee Conservatives PAC, Government of the People, School Freedom Fund and USA Freedom Fund.

Backed by the U.S. Supreme Court Ruling Citizens United, those Political Action Committees can spend as much money as they want, as long as it's not connected to a specific candidate.

"The Supreme Court has ruled money is speech, and if you have unlimited money, you have unlimited speech," Nolan said. "There's no limit you can give or spend on the candidate of your choice."

And spend the PACs have.

According to public records, the five political action committees making TV political ad buys this year have spent more than $1.7 million on local Nashville TV airwaves for this primary election alone.

That doesn't include money the candidates themselves have spent.